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