Soldier to Officer: Weeks 7 & 8

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Hayley Larcombe served in the British Army as a qualified nurse for nine years. After a successful career, including deployments to Afghanistan and Kenya, she decided to apply for a commission into the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps as an officer.

She was successful at the Army Officer Selection Board and has recently started the Professional Qualified Officers course at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst. For 11 weeks she will be in Dettingen Company, 47 Platoon.

This blog will follow her progress: week in week out.

We were all quite apprehensive about the beginning of Week 7, mostly because we knew it meant one thing, Exercise! Exercise Horrock’s Endeavour began on Tuesday and it was most certainly the biggest hurdle of the course so far.

The first day was spent carrying out back-to-back section attacks, which were very tiring.We arrived at the harbour area just before last light and began our harbour routine. There was a lot of discussion between cadets, prior to the exercise, as to whether or not they would make us dig fire trenches again. We did, we dug and dug and dug and dug some more! At 0430, when we were still digging, we accepted that sleep was a nicety that we weren’t going to be reunited with our sleeping bags for the duration of the exercise.

On the morning of the second day, one of the cadets gave us orders for a Platoon level advance to contact. We then went out and conducted several Platoon level attacks. Upon return to the harbour area (Platoon location), we commenced night time routine. At 2000hrs (8pm) a recce patrol was sent out. Whilst the recce patrol was out gaining vital information on the enemy, those that weren’t on sentry were tasked with making a model pit, whilst the Platoon Commander prepared his orders. It was at this point that the heavens opened and it poured with rain. We were absolutely soaked and desperately trying to protect the model pit (that we had spent hours building) from the elements. Most cadets got about an hour’s sleep that evening, if they were lucky!

OCdt Malan still smiling whilst digging her fire trench!

OCdt Malan still smiling whilst digging her fire trench!

On the third and final day, we received orders for a deliberate attack. After collapsing our harbour area, we went out and conducted the attack, which was a success. However, we took a casualty and had to run with the stretcher all the way back to the back gate of Barossa training area. We were all absolutely exhausted by the time we got back!

Once back at camp we began weapon cleaning and reminiscing about the previous few days. Most cadets admitted that they hit the wall at some point during this exercise, myself included. Being that sleep deprived and having to conduct the 7 Questions and give orders is no easy feat, but we did it! That’s the thing about serving in the Army, you think you have a limit, you think that there are things you wouldn’t be capable of doing, but the Army is constantly pushing your boundaries. I genuinely believe that having your limits pushed in this way, makes you much more of a robust character and enables you to perform at a high level, even when you are out of your comfort zone.

Last week (week 8) of the course was spent on the ranges. We have completed a very comprehensive range package whilst at RMAS and many of us have seen a marked improvement in our shooting over the duration of the course. In week 9 we have the Annual Combat Marksmanship Test (ACMT), which will be the culmination of everything we have learnt from the School Arms Small Corps (SASC) wing here at RMAS. With 3 weeks left on course, the end is very nearly in sight!

Soldier to Officer: Week Six

img_0433Hayley Larcombe served in the British Army as a qualified nurse for nine years. After a successful career, including deployments to Afghanistan and Kenya, she decided to apply for a commission into the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps as an officer.

She was successful at the Army Officer Selection Board and has recently started the Professional Qualified Officers course at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst. For 11 weeks she will be in Dettingen Company, 47 Platoon.

This blog will follow her progress: week in week out.

At the beginning of week 6 we received a brief, introducing us to the Tactical module of the course. This module covers training in tactics, leadership and doctrine, both in theory and in practice, with a focus on the section battle drills and the platoon combat estimate.

On Tuesday we went out to the Barossa training area to learn section battle drills, after learning about them in a classroom environment first. This was a very physical day! We returned that evening, with a much better understanding of the section battle drills and with many more bruises!

We have been learning a lot about the ‘7 Questions’ process this week, which is a lot to get your head around. The estimate process is used by the British military to allow the formulation of considered plans. It is a logical process by which a commander, faced with a problem, may arrive at a decision as to how that problem can be solved and the steps required to achieve the desired outcome.

We have also begun lessons on orders. The aim of these lessons is to give us a complete understanding of orders, the orders process, how to extract them and how to issue them.

Going for gold at the Inter-Services Skeleton Bobsleigh Championships .

Going for gold at the Inter-Services Skeleton Bobsleigh Championships .

I attended the Army Sports Awards this week, which was held at Old College, Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst (RMAS). It was an absolute honour to attend. I have been on the Army Skeleton Bobsleigh team for 4 years now. Skeleton Bobsleigh truly is the most exhilarating and rewarding sport and I feel very privileged to be on the Army team. I am currently the Army Female Skeleton Bobsleigh Champion and the Inter-Services Champion.

The first British Championships, under the newly merged British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association, also took place this year. Laura Deas saw off the challenge of fellow GB Skeleton slider Jor’dan McIntosh to claim gold at the Championships. McIntosh capped her comeback season with the silver and I took bronze, less than 24 hours after retaining my Inter-Services title. It was an absolute honour to race alongside such promising GB athletes. I intend to race again this season at the Inter-Services Championships.

At the Sports Awards, General Sir Nicholas Carter gave a fantastic speech about sport and its vital role in developing espirit de corps. Military training hones our professional skills whilst sport hones our competitive edge. Together this complementary effect improves our operational effectiveness, which is something I have experienced first hand in my military career. I believe the attributes that I demonstrate in my sporting life, such as motivation, drive, determination and discipline, are also reflected in my professional life and are some of the attributes that make an effective officer.

Dettingen Company on parade for Armistice Day

Dettingen Company on parade for Armistice Day

 

There has been a lot of physical training this week. We had our second loaded march on Monday, followed by Tabata training on Tuesday in the cardiovascular (CV) suite. Tabata training is four minutes of high-intensity training, alternating between 20 seconds of maximum training followed by a 10-second rest for a total of eight rounds. This type of training is excellent for improving CV fitness.

On Thursday the Company went on an endurance run and on Friday we had a very physically challenging logs and stretchers session. Friday’s session pushed many Officer Cadet’s to their limits, especially when carrying the logs through The Wish Stream. At the end of the session, the Physical Training Instructor (PTI) made us race in Platoons, whilst carrying the logs. 47 Platoon won the race, so morale was pretty high on Friday evening.

It was Armistice Day on Friday and Dettingen Company took part in a moving 2-minute silence, outside of Faraday Hall, to remember the fallen. Having served on operational deployments in the past, I always find this day particularly emotional. We must always remember our fallen.

We deploy on exercise again next week and we are all feeling rather apprehensive about it. Stay tuned to hear about what we get up to in week 7!

Soldier to Officer: Week Five

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Hayley Larcombe served in the British Army as a qualified nurse for nine years. After a successful career, including deployments to Afghanistan and Kenya, she decided to apply for a commission into the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps as an officer.

She was successful at the Army Officer Selection Board and has recently started the Professional Qualified Officers course at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst. For 11 weeks she will be in Dettingen Company, 47 Platoon.

This blog will follow her progress: week in week out.

We were very tired at the beginning of week 5 after completing Exercise Horrock’s Endeavor on Sunday. We were inspected on Monday lunchtime, showing that all of our exercise kit was clean. Needless to say, many of us found ourselves on show parade that evening!

This week we have been to many Communication Information Systems (CIS) lessons, where we have been learning how to assemble a variety of different radios and master voice procedure (voice procedure is how we should talk on the radio) . Without communications, even the most organised and well-disciplined force will grind to a halt. It is therefore, imperative that we practice these skills and get them right.

We have really enjoyed our lessons at the Academic Department this week. The Communication and Applied Behavioural Science (CABS) lessons at RMAS are designed to provide Officer Cadets with an understanding of what motivates people and how teams work.

Heading into the library to do some research for our CABS presentations.

Heading into the library to do some research for our CABS presentations.

We have also been taught techniques to improve problem-solving and decision-making skills, discussed the nature of biases and learnt ways of communicating more effectively. Most importantly, we have discussed techniques that can help a young officer to support soldiers. We have also been receiving War Studies lessons, which have been extremely insightful.

On Saturday, we had our Platoon social event. One of the Officer Cadets in our Platoon organised a night in London for us, which was very well received.

It was great to be able to let our hair down a little bit. Social events like this really help to bond the Platoon further and it was great to have a little break before we commence week 6 on Monday!

Soldier to Officer: Week Four

img_0433Hayley Larcombe served in the British Army as a qualified nurse for nine years. After a successful career, including deployments to Afghanistan and Kenya, she decided to apply for a commission into the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps as an officer.

She was successful at the Army Officer Selection Board and has recently started the Professional Qualified Officers course at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst. For 11 weeks she will be in Dettingen Company, 47 Platoon.

This blog will follow her progress: week in week out.

Week 4 began with an introduction to the Command, Leadership and Management module.

Being an effective leader is absolutely key in the art of command and contributes hugely to operational success. Here at RMAS we are being taught to combine leadership and management skills to become an effective commander.

We were privileged enough to receive an inspirational talk this week from the explorer Jim McNeill. Some of his points resonated greatly with our current situation. He presented the idea that, in austere situations, where you are one to one with Mother Nature at her worst, you really get to know yourself. It is his belief that, pushing yourself to the limit enables you to develop characteristics that will get you through any situation.

Many of us felt close to those limits at the end of this week when we deployed on Exercise Horrock’s Endeavor. We arrived at our harbour area on Saturday morning and started to dig trenches to sleep in. DIG, DIG, DIG! By the end of the day, most Officer Cadets felt more mole than human. After hours of digging, we then had lessons on pairs fire and manoeuvre where we learnt both the caterpillar and leapfrog method. That evening we went on a patrol where we were taught how to react to light when patrolling at night.

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The following day, we filled in our trenches and set off on a command task exercise. Fortunately the rain held off, despite our Colour Sergeant promising us that he had booked it especially for us! We covered a fair amount of distance on foot during this exercise. There were 6 command tasks set up throughout the route. Upon arrival at each task, one Officer Cadet was nominated as the leader.

This exercise enabled each Officer Cadet to demonstrate their leadership skills and their ability to command. The last command task of the day involved running through The Wish Stream with a very heavy stretcher. Tasks like this are physically very challenging but they really help to bond the Platoons.

The exercise came to an end on Sunday evening, after many hours of weapon cleaning. We are all quite exhausted after the last couple of days but morale is high amongst the Platoons and time seems to be flying by.

Soldier to Officer: Week Three

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Hayley Larcombe served in the British Army as a qualified nurse for nine years. After a successful career, including deployments to Afghanistan and Kenya, she decided to apply for a commission into the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps as an officer.

She was successful at the Army Officer Selection Board and has recently started the Professional Qualified Officers course at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst. For 11 weeks she will be in Dettingen Company, 47 Platoon.

This blog will follow her progress: week in week out.

At the end of last week Dettingen Company deployed on Exercise Browning’s Beginning. 47 Platoon’s Colour Sergeant told the Company that he had ordered rain especially for us and funnily enough at 1010 the heavens opened and it poured with rain. We patrolled for about 5km to get to the training area. The purpose of this first military exercise was to consolidate the basic military skills that we have learnt over the last few weeks. This included, setting up a triangular harbour, patrolling formations, hand signals and administration in the field.

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Soldier to Officer: Week Two

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Hayley Larcombe served in the British Army as a qualified nurse for nine years. After a successful career, including deployments to Afghanistan and Kenya, she decided to apply for a commission into the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps as an officer.

She was successful at the Army Officer Selection Board and has recently started the Professional Qualified Officers course at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst. For 11 weeks she will be in Dettingen Company, 47 Platoon.

This blog will follow her progress: week in week out.

We are now in the second week of the course and we are all shattered! Waking up at 0530 every morning is definitely taking its toll on us! We are still being inspected every morning at the moment. If an Officer Cadet is picked up for having a dirty room, dirty kit or failing to have the right kit and equipment then they are given press ups. Needless to say, some Officer Cadets are making serious gains in the upper body department. In week 3 this will change. Press ups will be replaced with show parades. Show parade takes place every evening at 2100. The Officer Cadet is to parade at Old College, in immaculate dress, ‘showing’ the piece of kit or equipment that they were picked up on.

Physical Training (PT) this week has been great. We had a functional circuit in the gymnasium at the beginning of the week, which was really enjoyable. The Royal Army Physical Training Corps (RAPTC) are really encouraging functional training at the moment, a classification of exercise that involves training the body for the activities performed in daily life.

47 Platoon after a dip in the lake, post assault course.

47 Platoon after a dip in the lake, post assault course.

Functional training helps provide you with strength, stability, power, mobility, endurance and flexibility. As a keen CrossFitter, I thoroughly enjoyed this session! I believe we have a few more of these sessions whilst at The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS), which I am looking forward to.

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Soldier to Officer: Week One

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Hayley Larcombe served in the British Army as a qualified nurse for nine years. After a successful career, including deployments to Afghanistan and Kenya, she decided to apply for a commission into the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps as an officer.

She was successful at the Army Officer Selection Board and has recently started the Professional Qualified Officers course at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst (RMAS). For 11 weeks she will be in Dettingen Company, 47 Platoon.

This blog will follow her progress: week in week out.

I once said to a collegue that, “You couldn’t pay me enough money to go back to basic training again!” Well, it is 0530 in the morning, I am ironing my bed and my Platoon and I are about to parade outside our bedroom doors to drink a bottle of water and sing the national anthem at the top of our lungs. We have done this every morning this week and we will continue to do so until the end of week 3. It’s certainly a shock to the system for some.

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Back to Work

emma peacock

emma peacock

Follow Musician Emma Peacock who plays flute and piccolo in The Band and Bugles of The Rifles. She has been in the band for a year and a half, having completing Phase 1 training at ATR Pirbright and Phase 2 at The Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall.

Returning to the fight

We’ve returned to work after a few weeks leave; on our second day back at work, after some admin and some practice, we were back into the swing of things and getting dressed ready for our first engagement. This was the Army Training Regiment’s boxing night in Winchester. Unfortunately there was an injury so we didn’t get to play. The next day some of the band had fun playing some big band music and then our band PTI, Corporal Jessup, had us out in our boots, doing beet-up training for our upcoming AFT (Annual Fitness Test). The first Friday back we played at a Pass-Off Parade in our home camp. There were five troops for this parade, and a lot of guests.

That weekend a few of us volunteered to help out 7 Rifles TA bands for a charity engagement. General Sir Nick Parker was there to see the two bands work together and he and the rest of the guests seemed to be pleased with the joint effort.

Montacute House Tattoo

Next there were a lot of rehearsals, running up and down hills and some sore muscles! We also did our annual Montacute House Tattoo. The rehearsals went well and then we got to relax for a few hours around the grounds. The Tattoo itself went smoothly and the audience seemed to really like the mass finale, consisting of us, HMS Heron Royal Naval Volunteer Band, Somerset Army Cadet Force Silver Bugles and The Pipes and Drums of The Wessex Highlanders.

Montacute House Tattoo

Montacute House Tattoo

Friday was a busy day for us. It started with a very early start to get to The Army Training Regiment, Pirbright for a Pass-Off Parade. There was only one platoon on parade, so the inspecting officer got a chance to talk to everyone, meaning it didn’t go any quicker than usual.  After the Pass-Off Parade we waited around for a few hours then got back on the coach and went to Walton-On-Thames to play at an ABF fundraising Sounding Retreat. This was in a retirement village and after the engagement we were invited into the pub to meet the residents.

Pass-Off Parade

Pass-Off Parade

The following week we had a few days off to make up for the days we missed during our tour of Germany, but once back we were back out running up hills and yet more rehearsing! On the Friday we returned to Pirbright for another Pass-Off Parade. The rehearsal for this was slightly longer than usual, but the long stand was good practice for the troops for the actual parade!

The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.

On Sunday we visited The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. This was for a church service. For various reasons we didn’t have breakfast, but after the rehearsal we all bought healthy snacks from the shop….chocolate, crisps and bacon baps. Before the service there was a short march from NewCollege parade square to the church. There was a slightly reduced band for the service as there wasn’t enough space, so I had a little time off, but apparently the service went well and someone was blindfolded and jumped off a table!

The following Thursday we boarded the coach for an overnight stay in Grantham. This was for a TA POP. We had the evening off and a few of the band went into town for a curry and drinks, but it wasn’t a late night as we were up the next morning rehearsing. It was the band minus the bugles so we marched at heavy pace. Despite the rain the parade went well and the troops proudly marched off the square before returning home with their families.

Musician on the steps

Lance Corporal Daniel King is principal clarinettist in the Band of the Royal Corps of Signals (RSIGS BAND). Here he writes about being an Army musician, a role which allows him to perform at many high-profile events across the UK and abroad.

Army musician Lance Corporal Daniel King
Army musician Lance Corporal Daniel King.

Within the UK many important musical jobs take place at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. During the last week of September the Band of the Royal Corps of Signals, of which I am principle clarinettist, performed on the steps there. The occasion was the Territorial Army Commissioning parade (Sandhurst has a long-standing tradition of producing the best and this was no exception).

We, along with a few members of the Band of the Light Cavalry, arrived at Sandhurst on Wednesday lunchtime and wasted no time by going straight out to practice on the steps of Old College where the parade would take place. For a fair few of the band, it was their first experience of marching up and down steps whilst playing and luckily it was picked up fairly quickly and with no injuries!

Sandhurst had decided the previous week to go into long sleeve order, so the band were on the steps in barrack dress complete with woolly jumper. To say we were hot was an understatement! For the duration of all the rehearsals over the following days we never received the delights of  shade due to the positioning of old college. For those of you who were not in the UK, this last week was the hottest end of a September for over 100 years with highs of 29C  (84F).

Due to the amount of work during the summer season the band had no problems with this. The soldiers however….. did! No fewer than four soldiers on parade were drilled by the Academy Sergeant Major to ensure that they didn’t faint!

Royal Signals band at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

Royal Signals band at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

Begone Dull Care…

On the day of the parade it got just that little bit hotter. We started the day with the commissioning service in the Academy chapel. The acoustics in this church are fantastic and it is a thoroughly enjoyable place to play in. You need so little effort to produce a stunning sound.

On completion of the service, it was a fairly quick turnaround ready to march on parade.

With the band ready, the troops formed up behind us awaiting the Academy Sergeant Major’s commands to get on parade. We stepped off in quick time leading the troops on to the square where we broke off and marched up the steps. For all the rehearsals so far we had been wearing normal shoes but for the parade we wear spurs. Before the parade, bets were made on who was going to trip down the steps. My money was on our first cornet player but he stayed on both feet!

The parade continued with the adjutant coming on to parade and finally the inspecting officer. Due to the high status of this parade, HRH Prince Edward The Earl of Wessex was in attendance. After inspecting the troops and the band he gave a speech. To finish the parade the band marched off the steps and formed up just to the side so that the troops could slow march up the steps to the music ‘God Bless the Prince of Wales’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’ to receive their commission. With the new officers in the building the band marched off the parade square to the Corps of Army Music March and our own, ‘Begone Dull Care’.

As well as providing music for the parade the band provided musical support for the commissioning dinner on the Thursday night. A brass quintet played during the dinner and the rest of the band joined in for a cabaret marching display at the end of the dinner. The band entertained the dinner with pieces featuring the Post Horns, the Lord of the Dance and finally another piece featuring the less musical trombones (I’m a woodwind player and the rivalry runs deep with the brass). We finished with the regimental marches of those dining.

To conclude, this was a very good experience for the band especially some of the younger members.

Very impressive bruises

Officer Cadet Todd Ledwith writes from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst about Exercise BROADSWORD.

Officer Cadet Ledwith

Officer Cadet Ledwith

The consensus is that Exercise BROADSWORD is by far the best exercise we have done thus far at Sandhurst. It is split into three phases – Urban, Rural and CIVPOP, through which each of the three companies in the intake rotate. For Alamein company, our exercise began in uncharacteristically relaxed fashion, as we were the first to play the civilian inhabitants of Longmoor village. The presence of CIVPOP gives huge training value to those in the Urban phase who play the part of the ISAF troops seeking to secure the area against the insurgent forces and enable free and fair elections. Between conducting serials ranging from demanding food and medical supplies from the Civil-Military Co-operation Centre to conducting a ‘shoot and scoot’ on a cordon, Alamein made the most of our time as civilians by hosting an ‘Alamein’s Got Talent’ evening and a home-grown rock concert from the back of a decked-out Troop Carrying Vehicle (the set finished fittingly with a rendition of ‘I Predict a Riot’).

As this phase progressed, the attitude of the population became increasingly hostile towards the ISAF presence, culminating in a public order incident on the final morning. With well-organised ISAF forces armed with personal protective equipment, shields and batons facing off against an unruly mob in plain clothes and a few aggressive chants, the outcome was inevitable. Everyone moved into the Rural phase with some very impressive bruises.

The Rural training area was of a larger scale that that of the Urban, allowing for our patrolling skills to be developed as we moved between the remote villages inhabited by civilian and insurgent forces alike (both played by the Gurkha Company Sittang and soldiers from the Royal Logistic Corps). As in the Urban phase, the training focus was upon dealing with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as well as strike operations to seize IED making equipment or insurgent leaders and public order control. This phase also gave us experience of living in a company-sized forward operating base (FOB) with a view to future operations post-commissioning.

Our final rotation found Alamein Company, in our mixed multiples of male and females (approximately half a platoon strength each organised into teams with a flexible order of battle), back in Longmoor village to become the ISAF forces we had railed against only days previously. The continuing complexity of non-conventional operations in this phase was one of the reasons the exercise was so enjoyed, giving commanders on the ground many new considerations to their decision-making process. Included in these considerations was the attachment of Ammunition Technical Officers (ATO) to deal with IEDs, military working dogs for search and protection and interpreters to communicate with the local population. At Company level, an Intelligence Cell was attached to the permanent Operations Room adding another level of application of knowledge to the scenario.

Our control of the final riot went well and everyone maintained their composure whilst using appropriate force to control the situation. At the conclusion of the riot Exercise BROADSWORD was over in typically rapid fashion. We returned to Sandhurst with a few bruises and split lips but more notably we returned mentally drained. The sleep of a leave weekend was eagerly welcomed.