Week 40: Ex Dynamic Victory

Week forty is the first week of Exercise Dynamic Victory. This activity includes a firing package, RSOI and deployment into the final exercise of the commissioning course, all of which is held in Germany. The exercise is meant to somewhat relate to an operational deployment, as we fly with the Royal Air Force and then conduct RSOI (Reception, Staging and Onward Integration). Which is essentially a warm-up for what is to come.

The live fire package is really good, starting on a simple CQB range we gradually move up to a platoon attack. I found myself becoming more comfortable with the weapon systems that we use, really snuggling up to enemy positions before placing my grenade with a GPMG firing tracer over head. It is that odd moment when you realise that the rounds going past are live and if you were not crawling you may have actually been hit, I actually found it somewhat hysterical. Without a doubt the best part of the live firing was the amount of opportunities I had at being the section grenadier. Frequently crawling forwards with a bayonet fixed and grenade primed ready to storm the position.

The RSOI package featured a short patrol exercise with which we came across different events such as, IED, suicide bomber, murder, vehicle check, civil dispute and much more. It was useful to hone our skills once more, after all, for some we hadn’t partaken in conventional operations since Ex Allenby’s Advance or Slim’s Stand in February.

Later in the week the whole intake was centralised at a US Army base and battle prep for the deployment onto the actual exercise phase begun. We were to get a Chinook lift into the exercise area. Our first mission was to establish a foothold on the edge of a civilian populated area, we will save that for next time…

Week 39: In the wake to Dynamic Victory

Week thirty-nine, the week before Dynamic, all spare time is given to moulding our new berets which we will be presented in three weeks time on EndEx of Dynamic Victory.

This week was also exam heavy, a CABS exam and also Dynamic Estimate.

Dynamic Estimate is a four and a half hour exam in which you receive a set of orders, extract a plan, go through a combat estimate, plan an attack and then deliver your plan to a senior captain and highly experienced colour sergeant. It was pretty tough and a few did fail, they will all have a re-sit later on in the term. But it is in a very complex scenario in which you must consider an insurgent force, a conventional force, a local national force and the civilians in the area.

The US Army are also now with us in the wake to Dynamic Victory. Sandhurst and Westpoint (the American near-equivalent) have a growing relationship and we share our final exercise. Well, the Americans are ginormous! They’re very big, very muscular and very enthusiastic. We both look forward to sharing skills and learning from each other, plus there is a lot of conversation exchanging differences at the dinner table. I will say this though, for all that muscle, we still beat them in the tug of war competition…

I typed this whilst waiting for my flight to Dynamic Victory, so excuse me. But in two weeks time I will have heard EndEx for the last time as an Officer cadet…

Week 38: GEARING UP FOR PHASE 2​

Week thirty-eight brings about more academics and more physical demands. We kept looking at integrated operations and counter insurgency; after a while at Sandhurst you gradually begin to realise that insurgency may not be our greatest threat, but it is most certainly our most consistent one! We also went onto the confidence course again and one thing stood out to me, that is coping mechanisms for fears. I will openly admit that when I started Sandhurst I had a slight discomfort when it came to heights, ‘slight’ meaning near panic attacks! However, through our training we have each developed a coping mechanism to dealing with our fears. This is important as it is these coping mechanisms that we will no doubt use in the future as an officer, whether it be jumping out of an aeroplane, running out the rear of a warrior infantry fighting vehicle or charging onto an enemy position; everybody has fear, it is just how you manage that fear. Needless to say, we all managed to do the confidence course a lot faster than we used to.

But, the main part of week 38… The march and shoot!
The march and shoot is a series of events which leads into the Sovereign’s Banner competition. It is one of those famous and eternal events that every generation of officer has been through, and it will stay for good reason: it assesses every element of battle.

It starts with a two-mile tab, mostly up-hill, but as it is a competition you will be hard-pressed to find a platoon tabbing, everybody runs. Everyone is carrying 16kg in webbing and daysack, plus rifle and helmet. After the initial two miles a further two-mile casualty extraction goes through bog and through some obstacles. Once that is complete the casualty is dropped and you begin the assault course. I have no idea how long the assault course is, but from my limited experience it is longer than the average one. You start at a twelve-foot wall, which as one of the larger members of the platoon means I am responsible for getting every one over. Then there are more walls, windows to climb through, barbed wire obstacles, river runs, a cargo net, a “wet tunnel”, some ropes to scale, elevated planks and other objects. By the end everyone is in “turbo cliput”, a lesson as an officer. We draw our shoulders back, stand upright and try not to puke. Take a deep breath and then move onto a further one-mile tab to the rifle ranges. We then go through a 400m, 300m, 200m and 100m shoot, all with sprints to each stage.

There is no way to put it, although in hindsight it was pretty good fun at the time, you are just in clip. Sodden wet, bruised, scarred and legs cramping up to the max. But it is great fun and has really got me waiting for the next time I get to do something similar at the infantry battle school on Phase 2. Yes, we are now all starting to look forward to our phase two, the end is dawning…
Oh, I will also give a brief shout-out, follow RMAS on Facebook, they can upload better photos and videos than myself!

Week 15: The land of Opportunity, Rugby… and Song!

I would never thought that the three things I have enjoyed in life the most, the Army, Rugby and Singing, would have been comfortable bed fellows, turns out they are… I had better explain!

FullSizeRenderFirstly the three things I have enjoyed the most in life:

The Army – I joined the Regular Army at 16 years old and am a graduate of the Army Technical Foundation College that was then in Arborfield. Since leaving the Regular Army I have served, and commissioned as an officer, in the Army Reserve.

Rugby – I have played the ‘greatest game in the world’ since I was 8 years old and was lucky enough to play at Regimental and Army Academy level.

Singing – I left the Regular Army to become an Actor and Singer, working now professionally since 2010 fitting in the Army Reserves.

When you look at those three topics, the first two are pretty comfortable but I am aware that the third is a bit out of left field, so to speak.

In 2013 I decided to take the chance at commissioning that I had left behind in 2008 and when I look back over the past 3 years I simply cannot believe how lucky I have actually been.

One of my favourite activities is Rugby. As well as being a logistical Troop Commander, I am also my Regiment’s Rugby Officer, responsible for organising the Regiment’s Rugby teams and matches. I also coach both Military and Civilian Teams. I am also involved in the Army Reserve (Wales) Rugby Club, a team that was set up to give reservists from all the different units in Wales the opportunity to play rugby whilst representing the Army Reserve. One of my highlights was playing at Cardiff Arms Park in a Remembrance Day Match.

I have a keen interest in Diversity, and as I happen to be openly Gay, soon after commissioning discovered the Army Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Forum. Although reluctant at first to stand up as a visible, openly serving role model, it soon became clear that I’d enjoy the chance to get involved with the work of the Forum.

The Forum, one of over 20 diversity related networks in Defence has supported the Army’s drive for greater diversity and inclusion. Seeing an opportunity to generate inclusion from a new direction, the Forum established a new Sports Rep role and I now serve on the committee developing and implementing sports related diversity and inclusion opportunities for the Army and wider Defence. It has taken me all the way to the Madejski Stadium when the Army Football and Rugby teams joined in the Stonewall Rainbow Laces campaign promoting inclusion in sports.

My regiment is incredibly supportive of all the opportunities that I get involved in, though it’s not all one sided – I put in the work whilst in Green Kit too, being an active reservist means I get the chance to get involved in training evenings and weekends.

Being a Troop Commander is challenging and incredibly varied. My role includes the career management of the soldiers under my command as well having the technical knowledge and understanding of my role in the field. Activities vary from being involved in the organising of weekend training to then being part of them as the commander of a logistical Distribution Point, a kind of mobile ‘one stop shop’ for units to be able to pick up their supplies whilst on the battlefield.

Last year I was lucky enough to be selected to go to the US on an exchange programme to learn about how the US Army Reserve and National Guard conduct their training. When I look at it, this really is a great life – one minute I am leading a convoy of vehicles whilst on exercise and the next I am playing rugby or attending a high profile event representing the Army LGBT Forum.

And if you are wandering where the singing comes in handy… being the newest officer in the Mess, one of my duties is to entertain the other members on a Dinner Night.

Lt Cann
Troop Commander, 157 (Welsh) Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps
Cabaret Singer, Self Employed

Week 37 : Exercise Templar’s Triumph

Exercise Templar’s Triumph, previously known as Broadsword, more commonly known as the exercise where you can get your head kicked in and conversely kick someone else in! But, on a serious note, the exercise looks at stabilisation operations with a thinking enemy and civilian population who could remain neutral, but with one wrong step, could turn hostile. Something as simple as wearing the wrong head-dress could set the local population off, and then an eleven man multiple is dealing with seventy rioting civilians, who unrealistically are all fighting age males, all fit and strong, and were all jumping at the opportunity to attack you.

The exercise works in a rotation of three cycles: rural operations, urban operations and then rioting civilians. It can’t be put into words how enjoyable this exercise is; it is very complex, trying to identify terrorist leaders is nearly impossible when they wear balaclavas and the local populations are trying to protect them. We have to draw on all of our lessons of counter-insurgency to win over the doubting local populous, we became the local law enforcement, the local hospital, the transitional government, all of the scenarios that the British forces have been faced with in the last thirty years all swept up into one exercise. If you are the quick reaction force, you should not expect any sleep! We dealt with rape incidents, IEDs, local elections, murders, food shortages and more. The complexities that are bought are truly mind-boggling.

At the end of the exercise all the riot kit comes out and the public order cycle begins. I have never been in a riot before, my student youth was not that exciting. But my gosh is it tiring! When missiles are being thrown at you, the ground is on fire due to the vast amount of Molotov cocktails that have been thrown, and your line of four blocks is battering a local population of 80 odd, not only is there a slight glint of fear, which is quickly overshadowed by adrenaline, but its just knackering!

Week 36: Ex Agile Influence

Training as an Army Officer is not all war and fitness, indeed these qualities are pivotal to that of an Army Officer, but communication is just as important, and week thirty-six works heavily on that. The week is orientated around Exercise Agile Influence and a step towards Exercise Templars Triumph.

Exercise Agile Influence works on a scenario of a British short-term training team operating in a foreign nation. You have to achieve your aim, which is mostly stabilisation and anti-corruption, whilst dealing with a variation of other parties such as non-governmental organisations, host nation security forces, host nation governments (who don’t always see level with their security forces), and your own chain of command and the framework you are in. It all becomes very complex. The slightest upheaval can cause huge lasting repercussions. The importance of this is paramount when considering the kind of operations we are currently engaged with in the Middle East and North Africa.

The week also lent itself to preparing for our operational fitness tests; a weighted run followed by some casualty evacuations and assault course. If anyone tells you that you do not need to be fit to be an Army Officer, they are lying. Turn up to Sandhurst fit.