Week Six

Weeks 1-5 can easily be summarised with hind sight as a hard fast and aggressive approach to military life. Rumour always has it that after that the course eases somewhat, in truth, this is little but a rumour. The only difference is that now you know how to function on the five hours sleep. My days have, if anything, prolonged. I have additional fitness for boxing at 05:30 in the mornings and there is not just the typical polishing/ironing but also reading to do in the evening. We are preparing for the PG Cert course so there is a lot to learn about defence and international affairs, war studies and cognitive applied behavioural science. But, week six can really be summarised by CBRN.

CBRN is one of our MATTs, our mandatory testing, how to survive, live, work and fight in a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear state. The theory side involved signs and symptoms of an attack and how to treat it. We then donned our suits and respirators, which should take around nine seconds. We learnt how to eat and drink in the suit, how to clean yourselves in the suit and general functions. This was all summarised by going into the CBRN chamber and having CS gas pumped in whilst we conducted our drills: needless to say that our Colour Sergeant greatly enjoyed watching us get gassed, and to be fair, we found it rather entertaining to watch other platoons getting gassed, its just not very fun when its you. However, the daunting aspect of CBRN warfare is indeed daunting, it makes the most simplistic of tasks much more taxing. We also during the week did our assessed Navigation Exercise (NavEx), scores have not came out yet, but as I got all the markers and came in healthily under-time I am quietly confident that I passed. We also had inter-company sports where my company came second in the academy. All in all, week 6 has been intellectually stimulating and physically demanding.

Week Five

Week five can easily be summarised by boot polish and endless inspections. This in combination with a shocking lack of sleep lead to some rather bizarre occurrences. Every Officer Cadet of CC153 held onto the same thought, at the end of this week, I have a weekend off, and so the pain of polishing, ironing, polishing, ironing, brasso, room inspections, more boot polish and some more ironing was not too bad, our minds would wonder to the thought of a sip of beer or sleeping in until seven in the morning! Nevertheless, regardless of the room inspections and kit inspections, there still remained the actual physical act of passing off the square, which showed to be rather testing. Drill is not like riding a bike, if you have not done it in over a week you cannot just pick it up. And so I recon I got more blisters from stomping in highly mirrored parade boots than I did running around on Ex Self Reliance. However, eventually we got there and what a relief!

Our Colour Sergeant greeted us on the friday morning with a bottle of port in celebration of our achievements, which surprisingly sharpened our drill, that or the thought of freedom by two. In all, the fifth week actually flew by as every thought was directed to week six and beyond. We met our lecturers from the academics department and the directing staff dropped hints as to what was coming at us from now on. Needless to say it is going to get harder, but we now have some minor luxuries, such as our own bedding. Weeks 1-5 went fast, too fast I think, but now we move onto the commissioning course. I have personally thought of the first five weeks as creating the foundations to the commissioning course, learning how to function with three hours sleep a day and just basic functions of life at Sandhurst. Now, we are as it were, a tabular rasar, ready to be filled with all the information it takes to be a leader in one of the finest institutes in the world.

I cannot wait for week six

Week Four – Ex Self Reliance

Week Four consists of a six-day exercise out on either Barossa or Hankley Common training area. Six days may not seem like much to hardened war veterans, but to Officer Cadets who have only just finished week three, six days can feel like a very long time indeed. The twenty four hours before the deployment consisted of constant chat about weather, rain or shine, we could have two very different experience based on this one factor. Luckily for us however, the weather was glorious and made the learning experience so much easier after our two and a half hours uninterrupted sleep. We started at the very basics, how to construct a platoon size harbour, a place to sleep and administer yourself, but also has the capability of being a defensive position. This effectively means, we were cracking open the shovels and pic axes and constructing shell scrapes which are small trench-like features, this took up a vast majority of time. We also learnt the skill of self-administration in the field, being able to clean our rifles, our selves and cook a meal with just a litre of water, a small examine block and a basic rifle cleaning kit; this we learnt is a game of speed, the sooner it can all be done as a platoon, the sooner you can seize that extra ten minute shut-eye propped up against the side of your shell scrape.

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Once we had an understanding of administration within a harbour, we started to move closer to our trade of soldiers and officers. We began by learning how to defend the harbour in various different ways from ground sentries, to anti-air and CBRN sentries. Then we moved from defence to offence and began learning patrolling and moving tactically, this culminates then into learning pair-fire and manoeuvre and eventually the very beginning of a section attack. With all of this, my average day would consist of something along the lines of:
05:00 – Reveille

05:30 – Stand-to

06:00 – Morning administration

07:30 – Inspection

08:30 – Lessons commence

13:00 – Lunch

13:30 – Practical rehearsal of prior lessons

16:00 – Back to harbour for more digging

17:45 – Dinner

18:30 – Back to digging

20:00 – Night exercises start

23:00 – Back in harbou

23:30 – Sentry

00:30 – Sleep

03:00 – Sentry

04:00 – Last hours nap!

One thing which was very interesting was watching our platoon staff in the field, we were completely awe-struck by their complete professionalism. We knew they would have to be the best to be instructors at Sandhurst, but they were more than just the best. Their knowledge of everything army out in the sticks was incredible.

My favourite memory of the exercise was without a doubt the final night navigation on the last night. Starting at 02:30 on the last day, there was nothing more exciting than moving around on my own, relying on nothing more than a moon-lit map and compass to get myself to the final rendezvous point where I would be picked up by a coach to be returned to Old College which seemed like a five star hotel after a week in the field. This was made even more memorable as we finished as the sun rose over a mist filled valley. Beautiful is no where near close enough to describe that sight.

I cannot wait for the next challenge, Ex Longreach