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This is a question In the Army Now - The joy of the Armed Forces

I've never been a soldier. I was an air cadet once, but that mostly involved sitting in a mouldy hut learning about aeroplane engines with the hint that one day we might go flying.

Yet, anyone who has spent time defending their nation, or at least drinking bromide-laced-tea for their nation, must have stories to tell. Tell them now.

(, Thu 23 Mar 2006, 18:26)
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To all the naysayers
There seems to be quite a lot of negatvity towards the amred forces on here - I guess its a sign of the times, way things change. Thing is, it showed me a lot of what I could do.

I did my two weeks basic training (standard for the SAS - Saturdays and Sundays as we were affectionally known) and for my sins I was sent to do mine with the Royal Artillery at Woolwich. Out of the 72 squaddies on our course, I was one of the less competent shall we say. As I mentioned before, I came from a small Corps of Drums and didn't get much training apart from in music, plus I was unfit and generally a bit of a weed, and nowehere else did this show up more than on the assault course.

The one at Woolwich is a bastard, and the PTI's are bastards as well to people like me. You started at the first obstacle - a high metal bar. The PTI would instruct you how to attack the obstacle and off you would go. You were then introduced to the second obstacle - a low metal bar which you would have to go under. Again you were shown how to attack it, then you were sent back to the beginning to do the first then second obstacle. and on this went - each time you were shown, each time you went back to the beginning and did all the proceeding obstacles.

One of the obstackes was a 12 foot wall, which you were boosted up on to by another squaddie, Tony - a lovely bloke and the only coloured guy on the course. Anyway he boosted me up, but as I was already suffering, I came off the wall wrong - rather than hang by your fingernails and drop and roll, I just bundled myself over and landed on my feet, buggaring up my ankle good and proper.

No one saw me do it, and when I started limping back, I suddenly picked up from the Captain the nickname Mr Bean, a real confidence builder. By the time I had completed the land based obstacles I was in agony and exhausted. And also by that time at least one guy had given up and got RTU'd (Returned To Unit - aka failed). At this point I should have done the same, but I remember my mate who had originally got me in my unit in the first place offering up the advice that as long as you tried and kept going until you could not go no more, the army would appreciate that. So I decide to carry on.

We now got to the water obstacles - I say water, but this stuff was thick and black, and made no better as our bombardier proceeded to piss in the water whilst the PTI instructor gave us the overview of the obstacles. The first was a 10 meter concrete tube, not with the snags in (at least I don't recall there being any) as mentioned in a previous post, but still full of black, stagnant and filthy water. I did all I could to pull myself through it, and by now I was starting to lose the plot a bit. I was already last after the run and the last two obstacles were two ten meter man-made lakes - by the time I had got there they had sent back a couple of finishers to encourage you through. I jumped into this thick black shit to find the bottom was matted with fallen tree parts and vegetation, I remembertaking about three steps and falling face forward into the shit, and thye next thing having my head pulled above the water and being dragged to the other side by two squaddies, while a young bombardier hurled utter abuse at me from the side. They dragged me to the end and were ordered back to barracks, while the Bomb came over and hurled more abuse at me.

It was then I just looked at him, completely dropped the soldier facade and said like you would to a pal down the pub that I could not go on, I had done my best but my ankle was royally screwed and that it was time to RTU me. But he wouldn't have it and ordered me in to the second lake - I just droppped in, falling under as I did and the abuse came again - how he was going to kick the shit out of me if he had to jump in after me. I looked at him, managed about two steps before I went under again. The next thing was him picking me up by the neck of my coveralls, hurling yet more abuse and dragging me to the end of this pit of shit.

I was dragged out of the pit by the now drenched and very pissed off bombardier, and I was ordered to complete the run back to the base - 3 miles, and I still don't know what happened but even through the pain and complete exhaustion something inside me switched, and I just started running. Well I say running, it was more of a spastic limp, but I just somehow knew I was not going to give up now. At this point the Bombardier had noticed I had not been lying and that I was in extreme pain and he offered me to rest up - I declined - I had just got it into my head that I was going to finish the course or it would finish me, and as I approached the barracks guard house I was joined by a few people who had already finished to egg me on all the way back to our block - you have no idea how much that can really lift you, and as I approached the block a load of people were there cheering me in - I had finished a clear 10 minutes after the person before me and quite sometime after the superfit lads. When I got to the block they had to strip me as I was so exhausted I could hardly manage. But I had - I'd done it - apparently 4 other guys had given up and I swear if it hadn't been for the bombardier seeing something in me so would I. I came last by a bloody mile, but because of my guts and determination was treated like a hero.

About an hour later I was back in my room, showered and back in my drill kit when the bombardier came in to see how I was. I explained that I had really screwed my ankle up but did not want to go to the doctor until thursday, as if you got signed off of duty for more than 2 days, you automatically failed - I knew if I could wing it for a couple of days I could still pass out with my colleagues. He agreed and then as he walked out of the room, just said as he went "That's one of the bravest things I have seen from a Soldier this morning" - It was then I realise just how far I had really pushed myself.

I lasted the course - just - I had to be pulled out of the fitness test after 3 laps of the parade ground at Woolwich, and then the saddest thing was being noticed that I couldn't stand to attention properly as we practised for our passing out parade. The final day, as all the families and friends were out on the parade ground, I had to open the doors and watch all my colleagues, all done up to the nines and proud as fuck marching out to pass out, knowing I had done so to, yet couldn't share the glory. Yeah I cried, I don't mind admitting but when you realise how much you have been pushed, what you have accomplished and just really what you can do, and not get the recognition for it, you'd probably do the same to.

The other thing was getting nominated for most improved recruit and getting a rousing round of applause in a class one day towards the end - No I didn't win, but amongst the competition I was in, the nomination was truly amazing.

Don't every time you hear about abuse cases by British Troops in Iraq, or violence out in Colchester pubs or similar think all squaddies are idiots and the Army is a bad thing. It introduced me to some of the most amazing people on whom you could be completely 100% reliant without even knowing their name. It made me realise that my own pre-defined limitations were not true, and that I could accomplish so much more, and that the Army made me truly proud of myself and gave me the confidence to attempt many things through life. The guy who is writing this would not be the same guy if he had not had this short time in the army - and my only regret is that I never enlisted full time.

Army? I fucking loved it.
(, Sat 25 Mar 2006, 14:46, closed)

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