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!

Fastnet update: 18 August 2013 – We finished!

Final Update Sunday 18 Aug 13 – Apologies for the gap in blogging due to lack of connectivity and the need for a bit of sleep and cleaning up. 

Sunday 11 August: A sea of sails leaving The Solent.

Sunday 11 August: A sea of sails leaving The Solent.

Thursday 15 August: Our last couple of hours of the race were somewhat eventful as we had a problem with our spinnaker again but this time is was dark which made things far more difficult. With the finish line only just over two nautical miles away we were so desperate to resolve the issue and continue to the end.

It was extremely disappointing for the team to see a number of boats over take; ones that we’d worked so hard to catch up with and overtake during the race; while we battled in the dark to get moving again. The finish line was so near (we could see the lights of Plymouth harbour) yet it seemed so far away and at past midnight we were tired, especially as some of us had only grabbed one hour of sleep since 0400.

Finally we hopped over the finish line at just 0211 with mixed feelings of relief to have completed the race, combined with the disappointment of losing a large chunk of time and positions. We were gutted! After mooring alongside and cracking open the champagne we then literally wobbled along the pontoon to find the bar! (After spending a number of days at sea when you reach dry land you still feel like you are moving on the boat )

Still in our stinky clothes, looking rather wet and bedraggled we enjoyed a few drinks and shared tales with other crews before wobbling back to the boat to grab a few hours of sleep. We were not a pretty sight but at this point in time we certainly didn’t care! We’d just successfully completed the Fastnet 🙂

Friday (16 Aug) morning was spent with a media rep from Andover and another photographer before heading out for a celebratory crew lunch in the sunshine and a chance to relax. We then attended the prize giving and learned that we’d come 57th in our class of 85. We weren’t top of the fleet but for us we had achieved our aim of finishing the race. We then relaxed for a short while before getting the boat ready to slip for Gosport that night at 0100.  Gales were brewing and we wanted to get back safely ahead of the weather.

Saturday was a long slog back to Gosport and we had to motor initially as there was no wind. After a long race we could have done without the final leg home. There certainly was a lot more wind closer to home with gusts at Force 8! As we came alongside at Joint Services at 2130 we were pleased to have arrived with crew and boat still in one piece.

Sunday, was an early 0500 start so that we could get to work and clean Redcoat from top to bottom ready for handing back to Joint Services. Everything was hauled off on to the pontoon and cleaned and the empty boat was scrubbed from top to bottom. The quicker we could get the job done the quicker we could get home to a bath and clean clothes! After our final farewells and debrief from the skipper we were free to go.

We have all achieved something as part of this team and will all take away different memories. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to complete this event, have made new friends and will remember the highs and lows!

Sunday 11 August: Approaching the Needles.

Sunday 11 August: Approaching the Needles.

Sunday 11 August: At the start

Sunday 11 August: At the start

Sunday 11 August: Motoring out displaying storm sails before the start.

Sunday 11 August: Motoring out displaying storm sails before the start.

Wednesday 13 August: Approaching the Rock.

Wednesday 13 August: Approaching the Rock.

Update 15 August 2013

Update 14 August 2013

Update 13 August 2013 including updates for 9, 10, 11 and 12 August

Update 8 August 2013 

Update 7 August 2013

Update 6 August 2013

 

Fastnet update: 15 August 13

Update Thu 14 Aug -1330. We rounded the rock at 1315 yesterday and then headed on a steady tack to the Scillies. Last night the weather was mixed with some heavy rain and gusts. We have been chasing down some distant yachts and are determined to pick up a few places! Our first spinnaker hoist of the event ended abruptly as a tear developed, ripping the. Material to shreds rapidly! We are now sailing under our only spinnaker left ( after a quick patch job after spotting another tear) We have recently rounded the Bishop Rock lighthouse and The Scillies and our making our way to The Lizard. We are all showing signs of fatigue but spirits are up as we hope to reach Plymouth in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

Heidi

Update 14 August 2013

Update 13 August 2013 including updates for 9, 10, 11 and 12 August

Update 8 August 2013 

Update 7 August 2013

Update 6 August 2013

Fastnet update: 13 August 2013 – Need more wind

 

Update AM 0630 Tue 13 Aug. We are making steady progress and have been on the same tack for hours, but the wind has dropped and is due to drop further – conditions that do not suit our boat. We need more wind! Sailing at night under the moonlight and stars is always exhilarating. You have to keep a lookout for lights as ships and tankers can creep up upon you very quickly.

Capt Lucie Allaway

Capt Lucie Allaway

Watches change every 4 hours and I’m on with Lorna and Sam while Leila, Caz and Emily make up the other watch. The stint between midnight and 0400 always seems to pass the slowest but we are keeping our energy levels up and morale with copious amounts of food. ( perhaps we should rename this race the ‘fatnet’?!) Seriously though, just moving  around the boat while heeled over and bouncing through the waves, especially visiting the heads (loo) is hard work as you have to hold on tight and keep your balance. It almost feels like an obstacle course! We are now passing the Isles of Scilly to our West and heading north.

My sister and her family live on St Mary’s so I’ve given them a wave 🙂  This morning we were blessed with a beautiful sunrise as dolphins played in our wake and bow. 236 miles covered but a number still to go- somewhat demoralising when we know that some of the bigger yachts will finish today!

Fastnet update: 11 August 2013 – The race begins

We arose at 0700 with mixed  feelings of excitement and nervousness. We then slipped just after 1000 wearing life jackets and with our storm sails up to queue behind the long line of yachts and progress through the identity gate. Race rules dictate that we have to do this before the race actually starts. The Solent then became a fleet of white sails bobbing around the starting line as skippers inspected which end to start from. This is always a difficult time as all eyes are on deck watching for boats to avoid collisions! Helicopters were swarming overhead filming the start and hearing the radio and starting gun became very difficult.

We set off at 1230 and tacked our way out to The Needles passing dozens of spectator boats and crowds of  people at Hurst Point. We were tacking every 2-3 minutes for 3 hours so we were pretty ‘pumped’ as we exited the Solent and moved into watches. It was an amazing sight to see all the other boats on the water and we were in awe as the class one huge monohulls and trimarans screamed past us!

After a scrumptious home-made ricotta and spinach lasagne made by Lorna and chocolate brownies made by Sam we sailed through the night and are now heading to Start Point near Plymouth. Winds are hovering around 11 knots and we have completed  110 miles. Morale is high!

Fastnet update: 10 August 2013 – Caz’s birthday!

Heidi up the mast.

Heidi up the mast.

Capt Lucie Allaway continues to update us on the team’s progress ahead of the race…

As Cowes Week has now ended we managed to secure a berth at Cowes Yacht Haven and moved Redcoat down the Medina River to a pontoon with shore power and no need for a paddle in the tender to get ashore. It has been a busy day making final preparations to the boat and reassessing our personal kit and rations required for the event.

Lucie and Saskia attended the skippers brief and have buried their heads in weather and wind forecasts, various navigational charts and tide atlases working out our route. Getting the navigation right is key and we have every faith in their decision making.

Final team meal ashore with cake for Caz.

Final team meal ashore with cake for Caz.

After our final meal ashore and some scrumptious birthday cake made by Sam, we have hit our bunks for an early night. We slip tomorrow at approximately 1030 and our start for IRC class 4 is at 1230. (All starts will be screened live on the RORC Fastnet website.) Thankfully our tracking device is now working after a few hiccups today and everyone will be able to follow us on our journey over the coming days. We are all getting excited now; fingers crossed for a safe finish in Plymouth.

Fastnet update: 9 August 2013

Maj Saskia Hart takes over the narrative of the crew’s preparation for the Fastnet race, which starts on 11 August…

Today is ‘victualling and rationalising’ day, i.e. loading up with food and getting rid of excess baggage (and that’s just the crew).

Pastry wizard Maj Sam Shephard was dispatched to a nearby kitchen to bake Cornish pasties and coronation turkey with her able sous-chef Maj Leila Greene, while the independent Scottish contingent, Maj Lorna Craik, was tasked with the spinach and ricotta pasta bake.

Meanwhile, back on the boat, our ever-cunning skipper, Capt Lucie Allaway, watched with a beady eye while we emptied Redcoat of non-essential items. Out went our electric kettle, saucepans, pillows, the five-year-old box of sugar with the coffee-coated spoon embedded in it like Excalibur… Not to mention personal kit that would not be required: non-sailing shoes, jeans, large bottles of shampoo, seven tubes of toothpaste (one large one should last us the week) and towels (no opportunity to shower during the race!).

We also received a small pile of Royal British Legion parcels which contained T-shirts, polo shirts and a flag that would double up as a spinnaker (approximatey 6 by 4 metres). At least nobody will miss us!

Final shopping done, and off to Cowes to berth on Whisky pontoon in order to watch the end of Cowes Week fireworks.

Sam's yummy home-made pasties to keep up our morale!

Sam’s yummy home-made pasties to keep up our morale!

 

Update 7 August 2013

Update 6 August 2013

 

Fastnet update: 8 August 2013

Maj Heidi Spencer writes about the crew’s preparation for the Fastnet race, which starts on 11 August…

We enjoyed a more leisurely start this morning, and Emily cooked us some yummy sausage sandwiches because little wind was forecast first thing. Caz also mended some sails – there are always maintenance jobs to carry out!

We then headed out from Cowes and into the Solent to do some more spinnaker work, each time trying to get faster and more slick with out hoisting and dropping drills. Lucie was pleased with our performance, and we anchored up in Osborne Bay for a bit of lunch and a chance to discuss and plan our food menu and shopping for next week. Keeping our energy and hydration levels up will be key.

If there is no wind next week, we will have to use the anchor as a brake to reduce the effect of the tide pushing us backwards. Fingers crossed there will be wind – anchor drills are messy and laborious. As we nibbled on lunch, we could see in the distance a fleet of colourful racing spinnakers competing in Cowes week, reminding us that our own race is only three days away… Bring it on!

Update 7 August 2013

Update 6 August 2013

Enjoying the sunshine in the Solent – Lucie at the helm.

Enjoying the sunshine in the Solent – Lucie at the helm.

On the rail.

On the rail.

Alongside in Cowes – stickers on ready for the race!

Alongside in Cowes – stickers on ready for the race!

Fastnet update: 7 August 2013

Maj Heidi Spencer writes about the crew’s preparation for the Fastnet race, which starts on 11 August…

We slipped yesterday from Cowes at 0800 hrs and headed out into the Solent. There was very little wind, so we practised some light winds sail trim and spinnaker hoists and drops. In the afternoon, the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) and Soldier Magazine visited us in Cowes and interview the skipper Lucie and Leila, Saskia and Caz. We headed out with them into the Solent and they were really happy with the shots and footage they got from the rib kindly lent to us from Toe in the Water. BFBS will put their story out on Friday.

After a fun afternoon, we headed out for a crew meal in Cowes.

Update 6 August 2013

Motoring out of Cowes to start training

Motoring out of Cowes to start training

Spinnaker flying

Spinnaker flying

Leila on the spinnaker sheet

Leila on the spinnaker sheet

Lucie being interviewed by BFBS

Lucie being interviewed by BFBS