Teaching old dogs new tricks: Journey of a Reservist recruit

Date:  December 2013
Army Reserve Recruit: Craftsman Garry Freire
Initial Training (six weekends): Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) course
Location: Pirbright

Weekend 4
Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Freire is an Army Reserve soldier from 103 Bn REME embarking on his Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) at Army Training Unit (South), Pirbright. He has six weekends to complete this part of initial training. Cfn Freire is a Policeman in his civilian life.

Weapon Fires Weapon Stops

The focus of Weekend 4 is most definitely around the weapons handling test. We spent most of Saturday learning and practicing the last of the rifle lessons in preparation for the test on Sunday. We had all grasped the majority of the drills but, as ever, the devil is in the detail. Whilst there is some room within the test for minor errors any more than this could result in a re-test or even a possible back course, as I understand.

Weapons handling (library pic)

Weapons handling (library pic)

I am happy to report that all six (We lost one and gained two new members!) of us were successful in passing the weapons handling test at the first attempt. This is the first real milestone achieved so far in our Phase 1 training. The next real test is coming on Weekend 6 and that is the 3 mile TAB which, I discussed in my last blog. With this in mind I have been working hard, whilst away from the weekends, slowly building up my ability to carry load over longer distances. Hopefully, I shall be adequately prepared for the 3 mile TAB in a few weeks’ time.

Out for a Sunday morning stroll

Out for a Sunday morning stroll

Values and Standards

We also had several lessons on the values and standards expected from the modern soldier. I found these lessons particularly engaging. We were privileged to watch videos of soldiers who had carried out extraordinary feats of bravery whilst on recent operations overseas.

Furthermore, we discussed how we thought those standards and values would impact on both our military, and civilian lives. I believe the purpose was to highlight that there really is no distinction in the way you should behave when wearing, or not wearing, this uniform,

We completed the obligatory PT sessions, from which I was till aching 3 days later! Although our PT instructor was gracious enough to tell us on the Saturday that we would be hurting for many days to come! In his words “At least I didn’t lie”. Yes indeed. Thank you for your honesty Staff.

Looking ahead we have a few weeks break now before Weekend 5. This isn’t quite the blessing it first appears. It will take considerable motivation to not over indulge during this festive time. I am going to try and keep up the training over these weeks in preparation for the last 2 weekends. Moreover, I am now beginning to contemplate how challenging TSC (Bravo) may well be for me. However, best not to get too far ahead of myself as there is plenty left to do!

Read more about Cfn Freire’s journey here

Teaching old dogs new tricks: Journey of a Reservist recruit

Date:  December 2013
Army Reserve Recruit: Craftsman Garry Freire
Initial Training (six weekends): Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) course
Location: Army Training Unit( South), Brunswick Camp, Pirbright

Weekend 3
Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Freire is an Army Reserve soldier from 103 Bn REME embarking on his Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) at Army Training Unit (South), Pirbright. He has six weekends to complete this part of initial training. Cfn Freire is a Policeman in his civilian life.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

It has been three weeks since my last weekend away and I have to be honest and say that my motivation levels were not at their highest. This is definitely something that you should consider when choosing to opt for the six weekends or the intensive two-week ‘Malta Challenge’.

Whilst the weekends fit in better around my work commitments, they do require considerable self-motivation. After a long, and stressful, week at work it is very tempting to postpone a cold and demanding weekend away with the Army. However, it struck me that it is exactly at these times that you need to dig deep and show determination. The effort required to pass these weekends starts long before the Friday night!

Even my elbows are sore!

Weekend three seemed to consist, mostly, of Skill at Arms lessons. We spent so much time lying in the prone position on the classroom floor that everyone’s elbows began to feel the pressure. On a positive note we are all doing very well in this most important area. We have the Weapons Handling Test coming up on Weekend four, which is our first pass or fail test. It seems incredible, and a testament to our trainers, that we have learnt so much in such a short time. It does prove that the Army has developed a very effective tried and tested system for training recruits.

Tactical Advance to Battle (TAB)

Saturday’s physical torture (Sorry that should read physical training) was an introduction to the Personal Fitness Assessment or PFA. This consisted of as many press-ups and sit-ups in two minutes respectively followed by the mile-and-a-half-run. For the first time I actually didn’t feel too bad following PT, which was most welcome. Hopefully, my fitness and resilience levels are beginning to improve?

Getting up to scratch for the Personal Fitness Assessment.

Getting up to scratch for the Personal Fitness Assessment.

Getting up to scratch for the Personal Fitness Assessment.

Getting up to scratch for the Personal Fitness Assessment.

On Sunday we had an introduction to ‘Tabbing’. This is a forced march whilst carrying a load. Our first foray was a two-mile march in boots and carrying the SA80. The speed at which you are required to march is just above that which is comfortable so it quickly starts to wear you out.

As we progress through the weekends we will have to complete three miles in 45 minutes whilst wearing full kit, carrying the bergen and the SA80. This forms the final test and is completed on Weekend six.

By all accounts this is the area that can catch many recruits out. Whilst walking at this speed is unnatural for most, it is the introduction of weight that causes problems. I myself could feel ‘Hotspots’ on the heels of both feet even after 2 miles. I shall have to practice more at home and try to prevent these hotspots from forming blisters. Blisters are most definitely the enemy!

Read more about Cfn Freire’s journey here

Teaching old dogs new tricks: Journey of a Reservist recruit

Date:  November 2013
Army Reserve Recruit: Craftsman Garry Freire
Initial Training (six weekends): Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) course
Location: Army Training Unit( South), Brunswick Camp, Pirbright

Weekend 2
Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Freire is an Army Reserve soldier from 103 Bn REME embarking on his Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) at Army Training Unit (South), Pirbright. He has six weekends to complete this part of initial training. Cfn Freire is a Policeman in his civilian life.

Never enough time

Weekend 2 began in earnest on Saturday morning with a palpable change in tempo. We were introduced to a new Corporal who was far more vociferous than our previous. He barked his orders at increasing decibels until we adhered to the given instructions! That said, his depth of knowledge of the course content over the weekend was most impressive.

The new Corporal was barking

Taking it all in!

The ability to do everything that it is required of you at a pace that seems ludicrous is something you begin to accept. There never seems to be enough time no matter how seemingly simple the task. This relentless pressure is applied from the outset and the expectation is that you will react instantly and without question. The subliminal lesson being taught is clearly a fundamental cornerstone of all military discipline.

The group dynamics are slowly evolving and this is interesting to observe. We are becoming more comfortable in each other’s company and our true characters are beginning to come through. This is definitely a very positive experience enhanced by the occasional collective adversity!

In the field

The emphasis of weekend 2 is centered around the introduction to Fieldcraft and your first night out in the field. As with everything else there are numerous lessons where every detail is explained and covered including what to pack, what to wear and even how to correctly wash yourself!

The final briefing before our night in the field.

The final briefing before our night in the field.

The actual night in the field was a cold affair punctuated with being woken every 2 hours to carry out a relaxed patrol for an hour. It is fair to say that by reveille at 06:00 on Sunday we were all a little bit jaded.

Sunday began with a three-mile steady-state run followed by drill and more weapons handling lessons. We are all becoming more proficient in handling the SA80 and are acutely aware that our weapons handling test is fast approaching. Again, throughout the weekend it was stressed how important fitness is in completing the weekends. We had inputs from both our instructors and the PT staff.

The contented commuter

These weekends are certainly action-packed with very little down-time but they are enjoyable. My Monday morning commute, following the weekend, has now become a reflective affair rather than the usual tedium. I like to consider what we have achieved over the weekend and that gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction.

My advice to anyone reading this who is unsure whether they should give it a try or not is ‘Don’t hesitate!’. Just remember to keep smiling and make sure you get your fitness levels up. That said it’s now time for my Wednesday run.

Read more about Cfn Freire’s journey here

Teaching old dogs new tricks: Journey of a Reservist recruit

Date:  October 2013
Army Reserve Recruit: Craftsman Garry Freire
Initial Training (six weekends): Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) course
Location: Army Training Unit( South), Brunswick Camp, Pirbright

Weekend 1
Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Freire is an Army Reserve soldier from 103 Bn REME embarking on his Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) at Army Training Unit (South), Pirbright. He has six weekends to complete this part of initial training. Cfn Freire is a Policeman in his civilian life.

The long drive

Experience has taught me that the anticipation usually far exceeds the reality when confronted with stressful circumstances, or experiences, in my life. However, even when armed with this knowledge the long drive from Portsmouth to Pirbright  had my stomach churning. Sharing the drive with me were two other recruits just about to embark on their two-week TSC (Bravo) course at Army Training Centre (ATC) Pirbright. I’m not sure who on the minibus was more quiet!

I was dropped off at Brunswick Camp and made my way to the registration area in the drill hall. After a short wait I was escorted to my new home for the next couple of days. On entering the barrack block I was pleased to see several, equally startled, young men who had already claimed their respective bed spaces. It would be fair to say that the prefab buildings, making up Brunswick Camp, would not win a four-star rating in the Good Hotel guide. Then again, I didn’t think I would be sleeping or relaxing too much over the forthcoming weekend.

Reveille

We were introduced to our cadre staff, who all seemed remarkably pleasant and genuinely helpful. I hoped that this new-found friendship would last for the entire weekend that we were to be there! Breakfast was calling and then we would begin our lessons in earnest.

Our first introduction to drill on the parade square! We were told you do drill because “It’s good for the soul!” …….Questionable

Our first introduction to drill on the parade square. We were told you do drill because “It’s good for the soul”!

The whirlwind begins

You quickly realise that that there is an awful lot of information for your grey matter to absorb and there is very little time in which to achieve this feat. I am 42 years old and pushing at the envelope of acceptability for the Army Reserve. The old adage of ‘teaching old dogs new tricks’ was resonating through my mind as the pace quickened throughout the day.

The series of lessons undertaken covered a wide spectrum from learning about Military Law through to Health and Hygiene. We had to do our mile-and-a-half run and were introduced to the gymnasium and the Physical Training staff. I think all my fellow recruits would agree (Maybe with one 19-year-old, extremely fit exception) that PT strikes terror into the hearts and minds of most who tread the boards of those hallowed gyms.

I need to work on my fitness or I am sure that the following five weekends may prove to be a very painful and somewhat uncomfortable affair. Our weekend finished much as it had begun with a disparate set of lessons culminating in a final PT session before we wearily boarded our minibuses for that long return journey home.

Read more about Cfn Freire’s journey here