“Why oh why did I ever think this was a good idea!” That was pretty much the continuous thought running round and round in my head for a week before the exercise. I had never had any interest in doing a wives exercise in my ten years as an army wife, yet for reasons that are beyond me, I had put my name down this time. I have never been a tomboy, or anything close for that matter, so why I thought it would be a good idea to spend a weekend rolling in mud, crawling through fields, wielding a rifle, sleeping on the ground and not showering I will never know! But hubs loves every minute of being on exercise, so how hard can it be?
As we drove up to the welfare office and saw a rather eager looking group of wives gathering I felt sick. They were all so excited to be taking part and here I was dreading the mere thought of it. Just put me in the car and take me home, was what I wanted to say to my husband, but I knew there was no way he would agree to it. He was happy that I had finally shown some interest in what he does for a living and wasn’t going to have the only wife that chickened out. So I pulled myself together and said my goodbyes before reluctantly joining the others.
It was then that Staff appeared! A small, shouty, Action Man type figure dressed in Number Twos and carrying a pace stick. He ordered us all into the welfare garden for a briefing. A long line of soldiers assembled themselves opposite us, all glaring icily in our direction, obviously an attempt to intimidate us- and it worked, we fell silent and waited to hear what Staff had to say. At the end of the briefing we were ordered to load our kit onto the back of a wagon and take a seat on the mini buses. I think this is where we levelled the playing field slightly as Staff realised that no matter how much he shouted at us to move faster, we would get on those mini buses in our own good time!
For the next 24 hours we experienced the joys our husband’s go through on exercise-
Drill was first on the agenda and I now fully understad why my husband detests it so much! Drill is a pill to be taken twice daily…or so we were told. And we found out early on just how much work goes into a drill practice. We were lined up in blazing sun- “No hats or sun cream!” screamed the Mum inside me and we learnt how to stand to attention, march, right turn and all that other technical stuff. We picked it up fairly quickly and soon got into the rhythm of things, however all the practice in the world would not make me remember to lift my knee! Over an hour later we were all extremely hot and ready for a break. And I’m pretty sure if Staff had stayed in his number twos much longer he would have disintegrated before our very eyes!
We learned how to assemble and dismantle a rifle and demonstrated some pretty fine shooting skills on the ranges.
We seperated the men from the women and showed them how to cam up properly; I think the fact they called it “cam and cocealment” did it for us. We had make up to play with as far as we were concerened and duly covered eachother in the stuff!
Our Section attack was without doubt better than any official military operation. We mastered the Rambo techinque in minutes and were shooting from the hip whilst running in no time…what’s that? Oh, you’re NOT actually supposed to do that, dangerous apparantly!
Dinner was an experience (not) to be missed- 24 hour ration packs leave alot to be desired and they have supposedly been improved!
We practised more drill as it got dark on day one followed by bed…well, a sleeping (doss) bag under what can only be described as a groundsheet (Poncho I believe is the correct term) suspended between two trees! Needless to say it was the worst nights sleep I have ever had and ended up sharing my doss bag with a snail!
We were given a very rude awakening at 5am consisting mainly of a smoke grenade let off in the arbour area and some beast of a soldier swearing and shouting at us to get up as we were under attack…again, we moved in our own time, with several ladies stopping to rush their hair.
Our second morning was taken up by more drill, driving military vehicles and yet more drill!
Then it was onto the dreaded assault course where we did ourselves proud and of course completed in record time!
Another quick drill practise and then it was off to our passing out parade…22 soaking wet (it rained all weekend), physically exhausted, emotionally drained, extremely proud and a few tearful women marched into a hanger where our families had gathered to see us receive our certificates fron the Commading Officer before being stood down for barbeque and beer with our loved ones.
At last I was back in my comfort zone with my babies, exhausted and emotional. After dreading the entire thing, experiencing a taster of what my husband does (and loves) for a living, getting thouroughly soaked, shouted at, sleeping with a snail, being bruised and bitten and aching all over yet enjoying every minute, I can honestly say that was the best beer and barbeque I have ever tasted in my life. (And I will never think my husband has an easy life on exercise again)!