Exercise Hunter's moon
Ex Hunter’s Moon marked the mid point of our Phase 1A training and was to prove an enjoyable if tough training weekend.
Each recruit took it turn to navigate a leg of the NavEx which ensured there were no hiding places and our Instructors were able to coach each one of us to maximize our learning.
Our Drill Night training program introduced more map reading and navigation techniques that would be undoubtedly expanded upon and practiced during the weekend.
RMR Scotland is the largest RMR unit and sub-divided into six Detachments in order to enable Royal Marines Reservists to be drawn from the main areas of population within Scotland, North East England and Northern Ireland.
Ex Hunter’s Moon was conducted at Otterburn Training Area in Northumberland, given RMR Scotland’s large geographical footprint it allows the unit to use this excellent training area and share the 'pain’ of long drives over the country.
Tyne Det ranks had the shortest travel from Newcastle whilst the rest of 113 Troop arrived around midnight at Otterburn. Once we had been issued with our weapons and completed the rest of our Battle Procedure to the satisfaction of our Troop Sergeant we began a 6 mile Load Carry which is exactly as it says 'on the tin'.
Over the next 2 or 3 hours we carried all our kit and equipment including our bergans over 'some very cheeky hills,' being mid summer the visibility was good which was a real advantage when walking over uneven, broken ground and whilst cool it was not too cold when we stopped for a map check or rest.
We were nearing the end of the yomp as the sun rose and reached the finish point and then began our now familiar routine in preparation for the first kit inspection of the weekend.
The ability to not just survive but thrive in the field in all conditions is a major aim in Phase 1A training, being in the field is the natural environment for a Royal Marine. Kit inspections are a real challenge designed to make sure that we pay the right amount of attention to our selves, weapons and equipment.
This 'Field Admin' makes sure our weapons and equipment remain in good working order, with these good habits the Troop would be able to stay the Field for a prolonged period of time and not just for the weekend. Our Training Team sets a high standard which the majority of 113 Troop were able to meet.
The weather and time of year clearly affects our performance and Ex Hunter’s Moon was at the start of the glorious spell of warm weather we have enjoyed. The warm dry weather meant that we needed to keep hydrated through our endeavours and make sure others did too.
After the kit inspection early on Saturday morning was a busy program of lessons and practice periods designed to develop our individual skills up until midday.
The Troop practiced our observation skills at the 'Obs stance’. Given that all the items were military and in subdued camouflage colours, the Observation stance required concentration, a keen eye and a good understanding of how to spot unnatural objects in the environment to find every item that our Instructors had placed in front of us.
The three skills of Judging Distance, Target Indication and Fire Control Orders were also practiced, as like many of the skills we have learned to date, the Troop will be assessed on these during our Confirmation Weekend prior to attending our Phase 1A Course at the Commando Training Centre later on in the autumn.
We also learned to locate ourselves on a map without using GPS by a technique called a Resection. However the basic concept is easier in the classroom than in practice and involves indentifying three points around you and then finding these points on the map.
Bearings are taken using a compass and plotted on the map following some arithmetic and basic rules. This allows your position to be triangulated, well that’s the theory. And with confidence and practice we will improve our accuracy and become slicker at them.
After preparing our route cards we headed off on a day NavEx in our syndicates with a member of the Training Team. Building upon the lessons learned on our previous weekend we covered the 7miles carrying 'Assault Order' with what are jokingly known as 'rocket pouches'.
Each recruit took it turn to navigate a leg of the NavEx which ensured there were no hiding places and our Instructors were able to coach each one of us to maximize our learning. These are the side pockets of our bergans that zip on and off and can be zipped together to form a daysack that allows more equipment to be carried than we can in our Fighting Orders.
The NavEx not only tested our brains it tested our fitness and feet as we covered some challenging ground that included many hills.
Arriving back at our harbour area we cracked on with cooking our evening meal and writing up the route cards that would be needed that evening once dark, for our night NavEx. At night your compass becomes key as it replaces your naked eyes ability to compare the ground around you and what it should look like on the map.
Set bearings coupled with distances measured by pacing provide accurate navigation and is also the method used in the jungle where again it is very challenging to navigate. Visibility is also dependent on the natural light provided by the Night Sky, however this can be affected by the Moon state and cloud cover.
The Troop departed out on the route for the Night NavEx moving across the undulating ground of Otterburn as we had during the day, tired legs and blistered feet working as hard as our brains to see us complete the NavEx successfully.
Once back into our Harbour area and with the sentry routine established we managed to catch our only sleep of Ex Hunter’s Moon. Before long it was Reveille, breakfast and the second kit inspection of the weekend. Fatigued, the Troop didn’t collectively perform to the standard required and we all had some extra Phys to wake us up!
On completion it was time for our first 'Stalk' which would put many of our tactical skills into practice. Stalking, is a test of Camouflage and Concealment as well as tactical movement. Instead of stalking a deer we individually had to crawl in view of our Training Team to a designated area in front of them relying on our Cam & Con and movement.
Once this was reached we had to fire a blank shot at our Instructors and if we were not detected we passed. This was hard and sweaty work but those who passed had the satisfaction of being able literally to hide under the view of our Instructors.
Despite Yomping many miles around and over the Otterburn countryside, it was time to cover 4 more miles and 113 Troop formed up under the instruction of our Troop PTI for a 4-mile speed march. This proved to be a stiff challenge for many but that is what Royal Marines Recruit training is all about.
Digging deep into our resolve and working hard as a team saw the Troop complete the 4miler on a hot Sunday morning, proving to our selves that we can crack on and meet the standard when tired and in difficult conditions.
We practiced our Resection technique again finding this new skill very rewarding when we were able to give our Instructor an accurate 6 figure grid reference of our actual location using our trusty map and compass.
Lastly we cleaned and deserviced our kit and equipment, with all weapons inspected again before they were returned. The Company Commander debriefed the Troop on the highs and lows of Ex Hunter’s Moon and what to concentrate on for our next weekend.
The Troop headed back to our various Detachment locations a little pink after too much sun and tired but satisfied to have cracked this demanding weekend and are now looking forward to the next challenge Ex Running Man.
Next - Ex Running Man, 113 Troop’s last weekend of learning before being tested on the Confirmation weekend.
Burnaby Road Sports Ground, Portsmouth. PO1 2HB
HMS King Alfred, HMS Excellent, Whale Island, Portsmouth
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