This is what it is all about. Last weekend was section attacks. We were finally going to simulate coming under contact, attacking enemy and fighting through. Out of the classroom and into patrols. It’s what friends who were further ahead in the course had told me about with gleaming eyes. For those that don’t know, sections are typically units of two fire teams (each fire team being about four people) and a section attack simulates a section patrolling an area and coming under fire. So imagine it – a group of us, loaded up and with weapons at the ready, cautiously patrolling through a clearing in the woods or along a path, then suddenly hearing fire in our direction. Adrenaline through the roof. Fire back immediately, take cover, fire back appropriately. From there, you respond to orders and fight through.
This weekend revolved around section attacks and the orders process (i.e. giving orders) and it struck me that only now was I really starting understand what the bread and butter of an Officer’s job was. We all have ideas about what Officers do and their roles can vary enormously but it was at this weekend that I really started to see how they added value: planning extremely clear and uniform orders that shattered and distracted soldiers could understand and then taking command of a situation as chaotic as they could possibly come.
So, how did I do? Not as well as I would have liked. I was too much of a perfectionist and so didn’t use the little planning time I had well enough, didn’t stick closely enough to the outline of orders and was a touch too pally with my group (the lack of pally-ness when acting as an Officer is part of the army culture it does take some time to get used to). Still, part of an Officer’s ethos is having a confidence that you can do it and a determination to get it done. It is that ethos which is driving me to improve for the next weekend.
There’s no doubt about it though, this weekend saw the smallest turnout yet. The training is a difficult thing to commit to, a tough thing to actually do and a real menace to master. One top tip I am now acting on is to run with weight. In the Officer training modules you’ll always be carrying weight: day sacks, rifles, bergens, radios, specialist equipment etc. You might be a fast runner but it’s a totally different set of muscles to be able to really run with weight. Weekend over weekend, it has become clear that your life will be an awful lot easier if you can really run with weight for a sustained time. So my weekly runs are now weighted: just take a rucksack, buy a few bottom-of-the-range bags of flour (usually 1.5k each) and tape them up, start low and build up. It makes a real difference.
Every weekend now the training is getting more and more real – you’ll understand more and more about what it is actually training you for and you’ll increasingly realise the need to work outside the training to perform in it.