BY MELISSA CLARK
SEVEN SOLDIERS slowly raised from the ground, rifles in hand, ready to fire. This first group, heavily camouflaged, walked cautiously across the field towards the dense woods. Approximately three minutes later, a further seven soldiers rose from their hiding spots and took up their defence positions behind the group.
Defending shots fired out from the woods opposite as the soldiers dove to the grassy field seeking cover from the rain of bullets. Two smoke grenades were launched towards the opposition as flash bangs cracked across the field.
The soldiers then put their weapons down and walked to the woods for a break and a chat.
These TA recruits have been taking part in an intense 5-week summer challenge.
150 trainees-with only 7 females- have been put through their paces on the Edinburgh based course. This residential programme has been designed to give the volunteers the opportunity to experience the reality of army life.
The army hopefuls have been taught a variety of both mental and practical military skills so far. These include; learning to handle and fire the SA80 A2 rifle, personal fitness, first aid, marching, navigational skills and how to live out in the field.
Three main tests have to be passed by the recruits as part of their training. ‘Ice breaker,’ a 12-hour outdoor training experience, ‘First night,’ tactical training and a 3-day training experience designed to push the prospective soldiers to their limits.
All tests which are created to simulate real-life scenarios have to be passed in order for the recruits to obtain their pass as a fully trained Phase 1 soldier.
Major Ruairi Fitzpatrick, from the Army Training unit said: “It develops teamwork, leadership and personal improvement. It is also about learning how to take calculated risks and make decisions under pressure.
On this particular training day, only one female, Private Katie Haywood, was present in the entire platoon.
Katie, who qualified as a radiographer in Kent said: “Working with the lads is great, they are so genuinely nice, helpful and treat me just like everyone else. I don’t feel any difference to the guys. I joined because I wanted a challenge.
“I wasn’t sure at first about it. I mean, I know it’s supposed to be hard work, but how hard is hard?
The 25-year-old added:”I get such great satisfaction from doing it though, especially after an activity or challenge. I love being outdoors.”
John Mitchell, recruitment officer for the TA said: “The vast bulk of people know what they are coming too. The fact that this course is residential is even better. They all get really proficient, really quickly.
“The selection process for it is really tough though. It’s the same as if you were to get into the regular army.”
TA recruit, Anthony McDonagh from Cumbernauld said: “I am one of the youngest recruits here. I’m only 18. I have been a cadet for 3 years now but wanted to do more. I asked to a Canadian exchange with them but I was always ignored. The squadron at the cadets mentioned the summer challenge to me so I went to talk to a careers officer in Glasgow.
“At first, like everything else it wasn’t easy. I wanted to come home but now I know everyone, it feels like home.
“The weather can really bring me down but I still really enjoy it.
“The section attacks are good. I really liked the adventure training we did in Aviemore.”
Another recruit that has enjoyed the challenge so far is Chris Barnett from Glasgow. The 18-year-old said: “I’ve always thought about joining the army. I have just finished college doing my HND in electronic engineering, something I want to do in the army.
“Once I’m finished the challenge, I’m going to start training with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME).
Captain Alan Hume said: “If you fancy a challenge then this is it- you should definitely try it out. We don’t care if you are white, black, small, large, Scottish or English. We are like a family; the army is a lifestyle you are joining. “
The summer challenge gives all successful recruits the opportunity to continue training and move forward with their careers in the army through various jobs- from gunners to medical staff.
Recruits will ‘Pass off the Square’ at Redford Infantry Barracks, Edinburgh this Sunday where they will parade in front of family and friends as fully trained Phase 1 soldiers.