God’s country? Then God must have a fine collection of Gortex and hot brews!
The debate of which military is the finest is one that will continue forever. One of the main calculators to the efficiency of a force is its training environment. Brecon Beacons is home of the Infantry Battle School. Every infantry Soldier from the rank of Corporal to General has at some point crossed into that hallowed land.
Brecon is our trump card, nothing quite compares to it, you can experience all four seasons in a day, admittedly summer will last about five minutes at best and winter will last twenty-three hours, but still, it is a harsh an unforgiving environment, and it was for week 20 the home of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. We had snow, sun, rain, thunder, hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanoes and the great plague. OK, some of that was an exaggeration, but nevertheless, Brecon chucked a lot at us.
This was however, my favourite exercise as yet, in comparison to a rather sunny and warm Ex SELF-RELIANCE or MONTGOMERY’s MARK. There was a lot more to chew on to for want of a better word. We conducted ambushes, company attacks, some fighting in built-up areas, more reconnaissance patrols and most excitingly, night raids! I also had quite an exposure to various different appointments, such as CSM for the deployment and Platoon Commander for the night raids, great fun! For those of us who want to go into what is known as the “teeth arms” this was everything that we joined for. Regardless of the rain, snow, cold, lack of hot food, it was somewhat beautiful.
I did have a low point however, and that was at 2am when I was ordered to a Platoon Commander’s O-Group during a thunderstorm; to cut a long story short, I lost the track plan on my route back to my shell-scrap and ended up spending twenty minutes stumbling around a pitch-black harbour looking for my shell-scrap, and at one point I was prepared to just stand there until I was found. It took some time, but as you can tell by the fact that I am writing this blog, I made it back, the means I used I shall keep as a secret ’til my dying days!
On the exercise there are a lot more resources thrown into the pot too. We now use special kit, which can inform you if you have been shot or killed. We also have GPMGs attached to us and demolitions too. We came under frequent indirect artillery fire and were constantly CASEVACing our comrades up hills. Personally me and my mates find it a lot easier just to chuck someone over our shoulders and go hell for leather up the hill, but you can usually only do this for about 200m, and when you have a CASEVAC uphill which is longer than a kilometer it is time to crank the stretcher out.
The exercise finished with a dawn attack on an enemy stronghold; we had to go and rescue some friendly prisoners of war. And just by that statement you can tell how much more intense this exercise has been compared to the usual “three times enemy entrenched positions”. Ultimately, this exercise has reaffirmed why I love what I do, being cold, being muddy, being soaked, but ultimately, knowing that we are being better, more hardy, more determined than the vast majority of people our age. I would rather be in Brecon than I would on the drill square, and I would definitely rather be in Brecon than working 9-5 (in most circumstances!)