Ph1 Week 11
Resuming this WAY overdue series of posts… Here’s Week 11 of my Ph1 Basic Training
Our training coincided with the Annual Summer Leave, which meant that the camp went on a staggered leave. Half of camp went on leave for two weeks, then when they came back, the other went. Our troop got the first block of leave but before that, we had a lot of various tests to look forward to in Week 11.
We got back from Adventure Training in Wales on the Friday night and immediately on the Saturday, we were straight into the 6 miles loaded march (tabbing) test (a shorter version of the 8 mile Annual Fitness Test). Thankfully, trekking across, up and over the Welsh Terrain from last week made sure this test wasn’t a shock to our system. Aso, over the past few weeks, we’ve had at least 3 other build up tabbing sessions, with weight gradually increasing from just wearing webbing and our jetpacks (backpacks that look like rocket boosters) to carrying 8kg of bergan weight plus rifle and webbing. Needless to say, I’ve always disliked tabbing. I’ll talk about this later.
Back from Wales last night. Enjoyed it but blargh tabbing in half an hour.
— RikkrolledVC (@rikkrolledVC) August 6, 2011
For the test, most of us packed our webbing as well as our bergans with 15kg of weight. Adams, in my section, had to pack 22kg because of his trade in the Royal Artillery. Repeatedly, we were told that our water bottle (which was easily 1.5kg in weight) didn’t count because they progressively get lighter when emptied. We proceeded to collect our rifles from the Armoury then headed outside the gym to get our bergans weighed.
Without a hitch on the weighing parade, we began our march from the gym then towards the hills of the training area behind the camp. The loaded march is basically a mix of normal marching at a quicker pace and a double march (pace at double speed). After leaving the back gates to the ranges, which was not even a mile in, the problem of tabbing started to creep up. One or two individuals in front of you start to slow down, making it harder for the ones behind and at the back to keep a steady march pace as they are constantly having to run up when the NCO’s insist on closing the gaps. They eventually end up running much of the way. With almost 25kg of combined weight on your back and arms, that gets quite annoying very easily for the relatively less fitter of the lot.
I guess many of us hadn’t fully appreciated why Concrete Hill was particularly reviled by many recruits that go through Pirbright. We had only been up and down it in our trainers previously. This time around, the PTI made sure we all did 20 minutes in to this test. We circled up and down it at least three times and words to the effect of “if you’re last up this hill, you’ll go again” surely did motivate the lot of us. Thankfully, I had gone up and down in the minimum number of times and that water break immediately after that ordeal was most welcomed.
We carried on to the exercise training area of hills, more hills and lot more hills. Affectionate names like 10 Second Hill, Heartbreak Hill and Sandy Hills were among the few that were thrown about in the ensuing quiet banter among ranks but to be honest, I had lost track of which was what. I just knew that on one of the hills (it was more of a slightly leaning wall), the one with tree roots poking out of the rocky ascent, Lakortey from 3 Section decided it was helpful to hoist himself up by pulling my bergan. This must have been 3 miles in to the tab and my sense of humour had already dwindled to a rather low state. Thankfully, I restrained myself from kicking him down the hill as Troop Sergeant saw him doing it. He was at the top of the hill, offering some hand to helpless recruits scrambling their way up and duly reprehended this act of… selfishness, by sending the lot of us down this hill and up again!
Suffice to say, lesson learnt, but now at this point my energy levels were already dissipating away very fast with every sweat drop leaving my pores. I reached into my pockets and took out pieces of Tangfastics – my bag of moralibo (morale + Haribo; just in case you’re wandering) to keep me going. I handed a few to whoever was next to me, which if I remember correctly was Jones.
At about an hour and a half into the test, despite the repeated marching and doubling up and down some more hills, it was very strange to stop feeling very tired. I remember doubling on a track in a woody part of the exercise area, puddles and potholes aplenty yet my legs just stopped aching. Probably with the sugar rush, there was spring in my step and I convinced myself that the end had to be close. Well, almost. It was not until half an hour later. Miraculous feeling that was. Suffice to say, at about just under 2 hours, this ordeal ended. A burst of enthusiasm and a surge of energy came flooding back in as we cross the camp gates and seeing the HQ blocks… and the scoff house.
“We’re coming back to camp now! Look up, look sharp, and don’t look like you’re shattered! Put your war faces on!”
From that moment to the actual point when we stopped was perhaps the LONGEST part of the test. Eventually, we did. And suffice to say, we passed it.
We got back to our rooms and it was just going half 10. The day had barely even started! Many of the lads upon taking their boots and socks off were greeted with grim and bloodied sights of blisters on their feet! I looked at mine and discounting a few hotspots (areas that aren’t quite blisters but just where the rubbings were), I was gratefully fine. I would definitely recommend applying Compeed or Zinc Oxide tapes and just letting it air dry to make it heal faster. Remember that your feet are one of your best assets while training so take care of it!
After the most welcomed shower, Jones and I did our Saturday routine of heading to Spar to get some weekend supplies. I picked up the Independent, some Vimto bonbons (another food of the gods, bringer of joy and happiness), some Lucozade Orange and a Chilli Wave Doritos. When we got back to the block I read a few lines of the paper and dozed off.
Sunday routine in camp for me was the same. We had some mandatory church parade so after that was done I immediately went back to our block. It later transpired that a drama ensued in church while some lads were waiting for tea and biscuits…. !!!! Apparently, some guy in our Section (I think it was AC) heckled one of the guys who got back trooped away from our troop and this person reported it as harassment and bullying. Statements were taken and warnings were issued. AC had been on the bad books of Sergeant and this looked like as if the last thing that would see AC off our troop as well. If only I hadn’t gone back to sleep, I’d have witnessed this!
Small Arms exercises and Live Firing 9
The week properly went straight back in to the swing of things. We were back in the DCCT range for the 300m metres shooting exercises, a few more circuits in the gym and haircuts on the Monday. The next day, we applied the skills honed at the DCCT range at the actual ranges for Live Firing 9. Unlike the previous ranges we’ve been to, we just headed to the one at the back of camp, where the targets were linked up to some sort of computer system to give a very precise feedback on how we shot. We were paired in twos, AC being my partner. AC went to shoot first and every time he shot, I was able to see exes where his shots landed on the this old-school screen just behind from where he was in prone position. I then proceeded to instruct him to adjust his sight/position to hit the middle of the target more. Words like “2 up, 2 right… 2 up, 4 left… were thrown about”. Out of the 9 shots for the 300m he hit 5 or 6. Then, we swapped and our Corporal was our safety staff and decide to chuck banter at me while I was shooting. It was hilarious and for reasons of decency, I shan’t divulge the conversation. Surprisingly, even in fits of giggles, I scored 8/9.
We proceeded to shoot the rest of the distances (200m, 100m and 50m) in preparation for the Annual Combat Marksmanship Test on Thursday and I remember coming back to the block from that really giddy with the results of the shoots.
Battle Casualty Drill Test
Wednesday started slowly with a run up the hills of Pirbright again. This time, just in trousers and brown shirts with trainers and no bergans. Phew. After scoff, we did our Battle Casualty Drills Basic Casualty Evacuation Test. It was scenario based test where each Section took it in turns to do. The lads who had transferred to our Troop, who had passed the tests in their previous troops became actors with various battlefield ailments and casualties.
When it was our turn, we proceeded to act as if we were on patrol and as soon as we found the site of casualties, we acted double quick time. Triage in the scene was immediately carried out by our 2IC, who if I remember correctly was DJ. I looked around and found Bonsu and Klass on the corner of the site. Bonsu was jumping up and down, being in hysterics, while Klass was lying down on the floor with burn marks and unable on floor. He was clutching his neck with his arms and was gasping for air… all the while Bonsu was going mad. He kept pestering me and it was really frantic. We were told to whip open our Aide-Memoire and just for drills, I did it. Admittedly, with panic setting in as I thought the imaginary time-limit to attend and act on the scene successfully was disappearing fast, I just did what I thought I’d do naturally. I reached out for my bottle of water and offered Klass a drink. He calmed down after that… while Bonsu continued to act spastically. I grabbed him and told him to sit the fuck down, chill out and wait for further assistan…. at this point, Bomb Philips called it off and that was the test complete.
I had no idea how the rest of the casualties were attended to. I just know that were was Allen with a supposedly cut off arm, blood spurting everywhere (rather realistically, I must add), a few broken bones on the others and a down right dead guy on the other. Fortunately, it later transpired that not only did we do everything correctly, we completed the test in the fastest time. BOOM!!! *high fives all around*
Annual Combat Marksmanship Test (ACMT)
We set off straight after scoff, taking with us two norgis full of delicious and succulent lunch food, sandwiches, sausage rolls and all… ready for a full day out on the field.
We hopped on the coach and it drove out of camp to a large shooting range. The weather was not optimal for test conditions as it had started to drizzle a bit and the wind had started to pick up strength when we got out. We proceeded to organise the shooting details: shooters, magazine loaders and waiting party. I was on the 2nd serial of shooters.
Rather apprehensive about the changing weather … especially as my first 3 shots at 300m didn’t down the target. Not knowing exactly where my shots were landing, I started to panic a little. I only had to shoot 3 targets down at 300m to pass but I knew I wanted that marksman. I knuckled down, aimed left more and the shots that followed landed! After that that serial, each target came down and I passed the test! 46/49! I think to get a marksman, one only needs 37… SO WOOP! Got that in the bag!
It turned out that about half of the troop failed theirs because either the targets weren’t coming down even when they were obviously getting hit (about a whole serial of 12 lads didn’t drop their targets at 50m!) or the weather conditions blew them off course.
The ones who didn’t pass retook once after scoff but still a few ones didn’t pass.
Unfortunately, whether to celebrate that ticket to Pass Off in a couple of weeks time or wallow from a threat of getting back ridden, brass party (collecting empty shells, 1 press up for every missed one) was still a boring affair.
The next day was a much less exciting day. A full day of lesson on L109A1HE grenade, several periods of CBRN lessons and a test on Counter IED. Then, after scoff, we had a massive clean up of the block ready for going on leave the next day.
With every tests needed passing, we’re ready for our 2 weeks leave! We emptied the block after some more block cleaning and was soon released back to the civilian population!
Swirly and a few of us took the train to London. Seeing as I live in London, I wasn’t on the rush to go home so I grab a couple of drinks with the lads as they made their way up north from King’s Cross.
It’s only for 2 weeks, but it was odd not seeing these lot!