In the last week of January 2019, soldiers from across the battalion embarked on the eight-hour journey to the Scottish, Welsh and Irish Divisional Training Team Headquarters in Redford Cavalry Barracks, Edinburgh. The 8-vehicle convoy taking up the inside lane of the M6 following behind Sgt Walters’ in the lead vehicle who had the unfortunate task of driving 400 miles in a Landrover! The group included Fusiliers looking to demonstrate their leadership potential on the Potential Junior Non-Commissioned Officer (PJNCO) Course as well as some Corporals and Sergeants to assist with the delivery of the course. The eight-week course is broken down into four phases; Skill at Arms, CLM (Command leadership and management), Tactics and Land Navigation. These are all equally important to develop Fusiliers into leaders and commanders.
As a Corporal assisting with the delivery of the training and acting as Section Commander, I was really looking forward to teaching and training the Fusiliers as well as the soldiers from the other regiments in the division. Having previously been an Instructor at the Infantry Training Centre (ITC) this presented a different but exciting challenge, developing already trained soldiers from Fusiliers to become the future of The Royal Welsh.
One of the main challenges in the first two weeks wasn’t just for The Royal Welsh soldiers to try to understand the strong Scottish and Irish accents of the other students but for the Scottish students to try understand the strong Swansea accent of Sgt Smith. During the Skill at Arms phase I taught my first lesson to the students, Zeroing. I found the students on the course really engaging, willing to learn, and constantly asking questions which really benefits an instructor. Even in the early stages of the course the Fusiliers had began to create a bond with the other students, helped by the Platoon Sergeant, Sgt Ndunda instilling an ethos into the platoon from the early stages. During this phase the students learned how to supervise static live firing activity and to coach firers. This involved long, cold days on Castlelaw Ranges.
A good skill for a future JNCO to have is the ability to teach lessons and pass on their knowledge to other soldiers within the battalion and have the confidence to stand up in front of a large group. This is where the Defence Train the Trainer (DTTT) phase comes in. Soldiers had to plan and prepare a 30-minute presentation/lesson of their choosing and present it back to the Platoon. Sgt Smith and I pulled up a chair at the rear of the classroom looking forward to hearing what subjects the students had prepared. By the end of the day of the presentations the fusiliers and the instructors knew the history of numerous Scottish football clubs, how to play the bagpipes and thanks to Fusilier Evans’ lesson, the life of Fusilier Pardoe.
After a well-deserved weekend off where everyone had the opportunity to see the sights of Edinburgh and indulge in the local Scottish culture, focus now turned to the tactics phase. This phase teaches and tests the soldier’s ability to be both a section second in command and section commander. It consisted of numerous lessons, demonstrations and two exercises. During the first exercise the soldiers deployed onto the Dreghorn Training Area, about 10 miles from camp. It is small but should not be underestimated; both students and directing staff ‘felt the burn’ after multiple patrols up and down the Scottish ‘Travellator’. Section attacks were conducted through the steep re-entrant that splits the training area, testing all who took part over a gruelling two days with minimal sleep.
I found this phase of the course the most demanding as an instructor having to teach soldiers the role and responsibilities of not only the job of a section 2IC but as a section commander which is two roles above their current job. It was also the most rewarding. Seeing the students by the end of the exercise stood in front of their section, pointer in hand, delivering orders around a model and demonstrating the qualities of a leader makes it all worth while.
The course later deployed to Otterburn Training Area for the final exercise. This is another training area notorious for its difficult and austere terrain. On this exercise the students put into practice everything they had learned in appointments as 2IC and Section Commander. Placing the onus on the students to take the lead allowed the directing staff to take a step back. Having been introduced to the Scottish favourite Irn Bru, this gave Lance Corporal Scowcroft more time to hydrate with his new love of the drink having a 6-pack buried away in his Bergen side pouch.
Over three demanding days, the students conducted, ambushes, recce patrols and deliberate attacks by day and night culminating in a Company deliberate attack. The final attack was the final opportunity for the students to showcase their command presence in front of the permanent staff, to enable them to refine the placings, and to determine the top student.
Once back in camp all that was left was a final parade and prize giving. Stood to one side to watch the parade, I could see how proud the students were having pushed themselves out of their comfort zone on numerous occasions in order to move forward in their careers. I felt a similar feeling of job satisfaction to that of watching a pass out parade at ITC. The parade also gave the opportunity for the Commanding Officer and RSM to visit the soldiers and congratulate all the students for completing a tough promotional course.
As a Corporal looking to promote to Sergeant at some point in the future and knowing that the soldiers on this course could possibly be working under my command made this course an exciting prospect. It also made the course that little bit more challenging. Wanting to pass on my knowledge to all the soldiers on the course as well as developing individual leadership styles that I could be relying on the future.
One thing I learnt from the course was that soldiers leadership styles all depend on their personality and they should not be pushed into a certain direction but to lead with what style suits them. I wouldn’t hesitate to Support the SWI DTT again, seeing soldiers who you’ve taught on the course now take up their new role as a Lance Corporal conducting duties in camp as well as a section 2IC on exercise is a satisfying feeling which is second to none.