In early 2019 saw the return of our beloved annual Battalion Gun Camp in Castlemartin Ranges (CMR). In February C Company had the privilege to be one of the last companies to go through the range package. The aim of the Live Firing Exercise (LFX) is to provide an adaptable and progressive series of shoots to enable individuals, crews and multiple vehicles to achieve a high standard of technical gunnery skills.
We had the joys of dealing with our new and excited gunners and get them to pass the Individual Gunners test (IGT). Now, if you are not familiar with the Warrior AFV, this is the shoot that new gunners need to pass before going onto the LFX. Before C Company could deployed to CMR for their annual test, they were put through vigorous weapons and theory testing to allow them to be at the correct level before moving onto CMR. The training involved a month of Weapon handling, followed by the WHT (Weapon Handling Test) before moving onto the simulation training in the Warrior Turret Trainer.
The company headed down to CMR on the Sunday night and for the crews it straight to the sheds with the LAD to work tirelessly to prepare the vehicles for firing, allowing the first day of firing to run as smoothly as possible. Like most Ranges the first day is extremely busy, getting the ranges up and running, with crews conducting bore sighting, and pre-firing checks before the safety brief. Castlemartin in the height of winter isn’t the most desirable place to be, but even though the weather was not at its best the crews cracked on with the job at hand.
As I explained to the new gunners what was expected of them, I could see they were raring to go. Following a demonstration to whet their appetites, they finally got their chance to fire fore the first time and the excitement was palpable.
Once the gunners had passed their initial gunnery test, they were able to join the rest of the company to conduct more complex shoots. The live fire exercises (LFX) are a series of battle runs to prepare crews for their annual crew test (ACT). This includes a night shoot, and given some reasonable weather during the daytime, I came up with a plan of supervising the night shoot from the back-deck of the firing Warriors, thinking that it would be much safer and quicker to get the shoot done at a very professional standard. So, the night arrived the weather not too bad I saw to my right Sgt Hubbard all geared up with full Gore-Tex. Reminding him that “Gore-Tex trousers are for losers”, he swiftly responded with “I might be old but I’m not stupid”. What I failed to mention was that I’d forgotten mine, and paid the price as the rain got progressively harder and I ended up soaked like a drowned rat – all because I was too proud to borrow some Gore-Tex trousers.
With all the firing complete the post administration begins. All the crews worked hard during the night to make sure the vehicles and the weapons systems are up and running again with cleaning and any faults reported and rectified, again another busy period for C Company.
Once back in Tidworth the Battalion gathered on the parade square for the presentation of gun camp prizes. Cpl Morris’ crew won the trophy for best crew across all the LFX shoots. The ‘Top Gun’ trophy also went to C Company, to one of the newly qualified gunners and one of Sgt Hubbard’s students. Fusilier Davies44 collected the trophy with Sgt Hubbard trying not to show how proud he was – bless him!