Ph1 Week 12
Continuation post of my Phase 1 Army Training series… (3 years late).
Back to Camp
After our 2 weeks summer leave, we resumed our training in Pirbright. With only 2 more weeks left til we pass off, I couldn’t wait to do the final push and reach the end of training.
We all got back on the Sunday afternoon. After some unpacking, Jones and I headed straight to Spar to get some munchies for the night and supplies for the 2 day exercise – Ex Final Fling phase 1 straight on the Monday.
Packing bergens and the usual trading session of ration packs (I got Beef Cassava from someone in 1 Section) filled up the rest of the evening. It was a welcomed relief when we were told we didn’t need to pack picks and shovels! No digging!
I put on Grey’s Anatomy while ironing my clothes and immediately to my amusement, Swirly complained that I really ought to put my Bluetooth headphones on. I said they were out of juice so he was forced to lend me his. Not long after, we turned the lights out and all had an early night.
At 0530, the familiar outbursts of wake up alarms kicked us all in to motion. The morning routine of shit, shower and shave followed by scoff and block cleaning were all accomplished before the 0700 roll call outside the block.
Weapons were collected, BFA’s were attached and blank rounds were distributed. For the first time since being issued them sometime around Week 8, we put on the metal plates on to our body armour, which added at least 4kgs on to our load. Ex Final Fling Ph1 was the first time we went out in full battle order.
Not long after, we set off to the Exercise area just by the back of camp, setting off one section at at time, in a patrol formation. Cpl made me pointman and joked that that was probably the one and only time I’d be a pointman in my entire career in the Army. (3 years on as I retype this post, he’s been right so far!)
We made our way to the FOB (Forward Operating Base) not too far from the Exercise Area gates. Phase 1 Final Fling was essentially an introduction to routines in the FOB, hence why there was no need for digging.
Briefly after settling in, we had a short lesson on the drills of entering a FOB, and a quick orientation of facilities therein. Each section took in turns to carry out duties: Sentry, Quick Reaction Force (QRF), standby QRF (rest) and Patrol.
Unlike the previous exercises where we moved from one lesson to another, we had a fair amount of down time. NAAFI break happened soon enough and brew was made using hexi and mess tins. As usual, baby wipes came really handy to easily wipe the hexi residue while it was still hot.
Cpl then gathered us to pack up for a patrol. We dumped our bergens in one of the tents, donned our webbing and made our rifles ready then headed out the FOB. We proceeded to head up a hill until someone radio’d us saying enemies were sighted further up our intended patrol route so we took the beeline and stayed there and expected to ambush incoming insurgents. We stayed in position for good ten minutes, lightly joking about what we did for leave. Surrounded by space cakes in Amsterdam and the lure of very smoking hot people, I told them I did well to resist temptation.
We then left our position with no rounds fired. We continued our patrol. When we reached a plateau, Cpl arranged to have some grenade throwing lessons. “Grenade, Pin, Grenade, Pin” became our mantra that midday. Every time someone threw a grenade, we dropped down to our belt buckles… and our chins immediately touching the floor. Thankfully, because there was 11 of us in our Section, we took the time to rest as we waited for our turn to throw grenades. It was already getting pretty hot and it wasn’t even midday yet.
Later on, we practised the Fire Manoeuver Test as a whole section, which is basically run a few metres with a loaded rifle towards a firing point and shooting at a target. We were told we had about less than 2 minutes to run across 800m of field and should anyone trip, it’ll be a fail. That and a few more patrol around the area got sorted our afternoon out. Suffice to say, it wasn’t very hard thing to do and not long, it was time to head back to the FOB to do the evening routines.
After the usual stand to at last light, we had scoff and became on standby QRF. We got our heads down, hoping nothing happens outside so didn’t have to investigate. We resigned in one of the tents and chilled. Compared to the previous exercises, this had definitely been the easiest so far.
I was made 2IC for the night so I was in charge of sorting out the stag list for the sangar (tower type look-outs) duties. There was 4 sangars but we’re only in charge of one. Cpl said we had to do an hour each starting from 10 to 6 so 3 people ended up not having to stag on. I ended up not stagging that night but I was at the command room acting as a back up runner to relay info to the sangars, just in case the batteries in their comms run out. It wasn’t particularly difficult thing to do and Cpl ended up telling me to go to kip at about 2300.
Section Photos then FMT
The next thing I remembered doing was waking up, quite cold at about half past 5. The tent was still very dark but thankfully I wore this little Petzl torch dangling down my neck so I didn’t have any problems reaching for it in the dark while I packed my stuff away.
The usual morning routine of course started with the first light stand to. Nothing eventful happened for stand-to and immediately after given the “all clear”, we brewed up and had our scoff. While waiting for further details, some civvies arrived in to the FOB and it turned out they were photographers. We were then organised in sections and had our pictures taken. Later afterwards, we packed our remaining kit and subsequently left the FOB.
We marched out in sections again, in single file and headed towards the ranges at the other side of the back of camp to do the Fire Manoeuvre Test. After a short safety brief, each sections took in turns to shoot. The FMT went like this: we run for 400m and as we reached the 100m shooting point, we went down on prone position and shoot once at each target that pops up. We shot two targets at each position before moving forward to the next shooting positions. Each fire team in the section (Charlie and Delta) would leapfrog each other as they approach their individual targets to simulate constant fire at their engaged enemies.
The firing range had two rather big hills, maybe about 15ft high on both flanks. Shooters on the first and last 2 lanes then had to traverse the hills. As my surname was the last one in our roll call, I had to go over the right hill on lane 11. I made sure my rifle was on safety and confirmed that Swirly, who was next to me on my left, also had his on safety. It would have been terribly awkward if one of us tripped and accidentally shot their rifle at whatever direction. Negligent discharge at this point could have been fatal as our rifles were loaded with live rounds.
We made a dash for it as soon the “GO” signal was given. To be honest, I didn’t mind the hill but the rush to the firing point made my heart beat very fast and it was quite difficult to steady the rifle in the midst of huffing and puffing. We decided that we weren’t going to do the “Prepare to Move… Move” lark and instead opt for a more fluid approach of: as soon as we shot, Charlie team would get ready, get up and run forward as Delta team shoots. This way, we eliminated the confusion of which fire team shot what, given that our serial was arranged in alphabetical order as opposed to Charlie and Delta Fire Teams. Surprisingly, at the end of the shoot, I scored 10/10 and the overall section score was around 103. AC, who in the past had been quite good with shooting missed 3 and that brought out section score down. He was quite disappointed at his score as even Hendricks, who hasn’t done well in previous Live Firing Exercises got a full score. Cpl was disappointed because if we had scored highest, we stood a very good chance to win the Best Section cup.
After FMT, some lads who failed their ACMT then took the opportunity to re-shoot. Hayes in 4 Section, enjoyed the experience so much, he had to do it the re-shoot more than twice…!
As boring as it had been for us, we took the time to rest while we waited for all the serials to finish. We left the ranges just as midday hit and quickly turned ourselves around so as not to miss scoff. No one is allowed to go to the scoff house at a state so we were told to clean up and parade outside for an inspection. One massive tip to get rid of cam cream is to use baby wipes. I find that alcohol based ones cuts through the thick greasy cam cream quicker.
Nothing really eventful happened throughout this week. In between going to various military lectures on Law of Armed Conflicts, Fratricides and CBRN top ups, we did more Battle PT. After getting used to the obstacles put up by our Gurkha PTI in the gym, we then did the assault course at the back of the camp. Dare I say, this was the only PT session I thoroughly enjoyed (Circuits was another but I both hated it and loved it in the middle of doing it whereas I felt like a overjoyed kid in a playground throughout Battle PT). At the end of the assault course were three walls of different heights. I impressed my troop by running up the highest wall (12ft) and being the only of my troop to have done it without assistance. It helped that back when I was civvie, my friend Willow and I used to do a bit of free running so I got used to mechanics of scaling walls.
With our Pass Off parade not far into the distance at this point, we spent a lot of time on the parade square. Dressed in those hideous green shirts and green trousers with our best (bulled) combat boots, we rehearsed our individual marching drills, saluting, marking time, turning and halts. Thankfully, it didn’t rain much at all so everyone got a very nice (squaddie) tan after each session.
To top the week off, on the Saturday, we were taken to the gym to do the sit ups and press ups of our PFAs, and later at the back of the Officer’s Mess, by a river, to do the mile and a half run. I was quite surprised that from 11 minutes at my first PFA, I had got it down to 09:36! Easily by miles, my personal best!
Glad of the productive week we just had, Sunday was spent chilling out, catching up on news via the Independent and eating Chilli Wave Doritos.