Teaching old dogs new tricks: Journey of a Reservist recruit

Date:  February 2014
Army Reserve Recruit: Craftsman Garry Freire
Initial Training (six weekends): Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) course
Location: Pirbright
Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Friere

Weekend 6

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.

Rise and shine

Weekend 6 began in the same vein as the previous 5, with a very early start on Saturday morning. Once the shock of waking up had passed, it was time for the day’s lessons. We were all quite apprehensive throughout the weekend as we knew that it was the final TAB on Sunday. The TAB is the course output standard and if failed to finish in the given time we would have to go back to weekend 4 and try all over again! That was not a prospect any of us particularly relished. Saturday’s lessons were a mixture including values and standards, health and hygiene and an introduction to CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, Nuclear). Saturday evening ended at about 19:00 with a session of circuits in the gymnasium. I made the mistake of eating too much at dinner and spent the whole session tasting blackcurrant cheesecake mixed with savoury rice! Another mistake I will never make again.

Warming up nicely in my CBRN kit.

Warming up nicely in my CBRN kit.

Sunday was a similar day to Saturday and there was a fair bit of hanging around waiting for lessons. We were in the classroom for a few early lectures and then we were off for our first shoot. The indoor range consisted of laser equipped SA80 rifles. They are tethered to a sophisticated machine that records exactly where your shots fall on the screen to your front. They are also CO2 operated so you get a good sense of the recoil that would be experienced when you get to fire the actual rifles.

This was the first time that most of our course had ever shot a rifle and I was impressed to see how quickly everyone mastered the marksmanship principles that we had been taught. The idea is to create as small a spread of shots as possible on the target. Clearly, being able to shoot proficiently is an important skill for any soldier. I don’t think anyone on our course will have too many problems in this area!

Good luck

The finale of our six weekends was quickly upon us and we were all lined up ready for our three-mile TAB which had to be completed in 45 minutes to pass the test. We set off at the required pace and soon we were getting into the 15-minute-mile rhythm. Things began to get a little unpleasant when we turned off the nice tarmac road and headed for a muddy track around the perimeter of the base. The track is very hilly and had now had large puddles full of foul-smelling stagnant water! However, we all pressed onwards and soon we were heading for the finish line outside the gym. Then it was done. We all passed the TAB and with a little bit of course administration to complete, our six weekends came to an end. It felt nice to stand on parade knowing that we had completed the first phase of our Army Reserve careers.

Fall out!

Fall out!

So now we can all look forward to TSC Bravo. I know it will be much harder and more demanding than TSC Alpha. However, we have had a tremendous grounding and we have had first class training. You hear many people say that the British Army is the finest Army in the world. Well, I can honestly say that if we continue to receive the standard of instruction that we have had so far, then I won’t disagree with that statement. I feel proud to have come through this phase of training and I feel fortunate to have had such capable and helpful instructors. My thanks to you all for helping a middle-aged man through some demanding days!

As I look back I have to be honest and say that some of it was physically demanding. Some of it was mentally demanding but all of it has been thoroughly enjoyable. I am sure that each one of us has now found that we have different areas of strength as well as areas that require more work. I have learnt a lot about myself over the last few months and hopefully I can improve on my weaker areas in time for TSC Bravo.
It is time for me to sign off. I hope that you have enjoyed my blog and I really hope that any of you who are thinking of joining the Army Reserve will now have a better understanding of this phase of training? All I can say is that if I can do it then so can you! Good luck.

The Team together at the finish.

The team together at the finish.

I hope that it is all okay? Thank you for the opportunity to write this blog over the last few months. I have enjoyed it very much. Also, a big thank you to all the staff at ATU South. It has been a very rewarding time for us all and we all feel confident that we are ready for TSC Bravo.

Read more about Cfn Freire’s journey here

Yes Minister! REME team forges ahead with 1000mph car project

Major Oli Morgan is the Team Leader for the Army’s involvement in the Bloodhound Super Sonic Car project.  As an Aircraft Engineering Officer in the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers, his technical background on Apache is used to good effect to provide the Bloodhound team with technical advice on Engineering Assurance. In addition to his engineering role he is also responsible for recruiting each 6 month attachment of personnel and managing the team on a day to day basis.

Defence Minister visits

It was great to see the Minister for Defence Equipment Support and Technology last week at the Bloodhound SSC Technical Centre in Bristol. Philip Dunne MP visited the Army Team from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) working on Bloodhound SSC to see what we had been doing since we saw him at the signing of the MoD-Bloodhound Concordat in Oct 2012.

Minister was impressed how we had integrated into the civilian team building the 1000 mph car and the ground breaking work the guys had been doing. I took the Minister around the workshop to allow each of the REME team to explain their role and what they had achieved during their attachment, which is fast coming to an end in March 13 (Details of the new team coming soon).

Left to Right: Philip Dunne MP, Cfn Rob Fenn, WO2 (AQMS) MarkEdwin, Maj Oli Morgan. Image by Stefan Marjoram

Left to Right: Philip Dunne MP, Cfn Rob Fenn, WO2 (AQMS) Mark Edwin, Maj Oli Morgan. Image by Stefan Marjoram

Craftsman Rob Fenn, our most junior tradesman (his rank is equivalent to Private Soldier), showed Philip Dunne MP the work that been done on the Super Sonic car’s lower chassis. Cfn Fenn has been part of a small group building this section of the car and he has also had the opportunity to work with Lee Giles, a very experienced mechanic formerly at McLaren R&D. The Minister was impressed by how much exposure Cfn Fenn had to wider engineering and his goal to work towards a Degree in Automotive Engineering.

Cfn Rob Fenn working with Lee Giles. Image by Stefan Marjoram

Cfn Rob Fenn working with Lee Giles. Image by Stefan Marjoram

Bloodhound Team working on the rear lower chassis at the Bristol Technical Centre. Image by Stefan Marjoram

Bloodhound Team working on the rear lower chassis at the Bristol Technical Centre. Image by Stefan Marjoram

As a footnote to Cfn Rob Fenn’s role on the project, I must put his experience into perspective – he is 20 years old and has recently completed his apprenticeship after completing training at the Army’s School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. He was selected as an outstanding candidate in the REME interview process and has impressed Bloodhound’s F1 engineers and designers with his work ethic, willingness to muck in and drive to expand his knowledge. This knowledge transfer – in essence rocket powered professional development – is one of the key benefits of the MOD’s Concordat with Bloodhound. It will create a lasting legacy in each REME soldier’s career and have a positive impact on the Army’s ability to support equipment maintenance and repair, especially on Operations.

Origins of the Ministry’s Concordat with Bloodhound

The origins of the MOD Concordat go back to last year at a chance meeting between Peter Luff MP, then Minister for Defence Equipment Support and Technology, and Richard Noble. The meeting at DE&S’s Defence Vehicle Demonstration event led to an agreement being proposed that would draw together the various strands of collaborative work that already existed between the MOD and Bloodhound. This would provide a platform for deepening the relationship and express the Department’s and the Minister’s own belief in this ground breaking education project and the benefits that it will return to the Department and the Armed Forces.

Image by Ashleigh Kane Photography

Peter Luff MP and Richard Noble. Image by Ashleigh Kane Photography

But nothing in politics is straightforward and before we knew it we had a new Min(DEST). Fortunately, the new Minister, Philip Dunne MP was just as excited about the project and progress on the agreement continued at pace. On 1 October 2012 we were all present in the Officers’ Mess at Wellington Barracks in London to witness the signing of the Concordat by the Minister and Richard Noble amongst a throng of broadcast and newspaper journalists. BFBS TV Report


From Philip Dunne MP: “This is a great opportunity for the Army’s Electrical and Mechanical engineers to share experience and develop their skills whilst working on this innovative technology here in the UK; their experience will feed directly back into the front line as they progress through their Army careers.”

At last week’s visit to Bristol, the Minister got to see an example of REME tradesmen working at the cutting edge of technical development when I handed him over to WO2 (AQMS) Mark Edwin to explain his role developing the primary control system for the developmental EJ200 TYPHOON engines. The control avionics will allow Bloodhound’s driver, Wing Commander Andy Green, to control the engine and get the car up to speed before the rocket kicks in and blasts the car through the sound barrier.

In the next blog I will touch on the work the electronic systems team have been doing with the EJ200 engine and the Minister’s reaction to the news that the WO2 (AQMS) Edwin and the team have built a system to control the engine which has been successfully tested on Rolls Royce’s engine simulator.