Exercise DRAGON’S CHALLENGE: A Section Commander’s perspective

The Alpha Company pre-training for Ex DRAGON’S CHALLENGE was conducted as a company to achieve maximum training value. We deployed to Okehampton Camp in Dartmoor for a 4-day training package.

On Mon 16 Sep 19 we left Tidworth and headed for the Commando's playground. I was operating the DCCT running Application of Fire shoots and using the system to correct common errors with firers such as trigger snatching, incorrect butt position and poor breathing cycle. The time on the range was useful in helping soldiers adapt to firing with the Virtus load carrying system. On the Tuesday we were met by sunshine and a weather report stating highs of 21 degrees. The sections set off at 40-minute intervals to complete the long-range two-day navigation exercise. The troops covered an average of 40 km over the 2 days. Day 4 brought us back to the DCCT, this time practising the Section in Defence shoots to try to replicate the shoot we would be doing in the competition. The emphasis was now on rapid target acquisition with accurate fire. Back in Tidworth, we manage to squeeze in the training objectives that we had missed out on doing in Dartmoor including an orders revision lesson for the NCOs who were stepping in as section commanders. As I was the most experienced Cpl, I was selected to command the A team with CSM Burford telling me there were bets on me to win - so no pressure!

At 0530hrs on Tuesday 01 Oct 19 we collected our weapons and got on the transport, Brecon bound. F our hours later we crossed the famous cattle grid and looked for the ever-changing weather that Brecon is renowned for. The first event was the 2-miler which we completed in a time of 24 minutes. We wanted to be a lot quicker, but I think everyone had forgotten how steep the road up to Cellini Village is! At the finish point, I received a set of QBOs to conduct an urban assault of a building. We ran up the hill and LCpl Wilcox, my 2IC went straight to work on distributing the ammunition with a speed and efficiency even the CSM would’ve been proud of. En route to the firing point, we came under enemy IDF, which meant crawling the last few meters into the trench… then we came under fire. Seeing the first target pop up I decided to do the classic section commander target indication " watch my tracer" to my embarrassment after squeezing the trigger 10 times no tracer left my magazine! Lesson learnt. Whilst engaging the targets, I heard the cries of "MAN DOWN" coming from Delta fire-team, the safety supervisors stepped in to unload the section, so I knew we were into the dreaded casualty evacuation phase of the competition. A few hours later we were on the white angels (coaches) heading back to Tidworth ready to receive our orders for the next phase of the competition.

Another early start at the armoury and then it was straight to the parade square for a kit check and to make the model ready for orders. To my surprise, my section orders attracted a large audience including the CO, RSM, OC and CSM. After setting off in the warrior, it suddenly stopped, and the vehicle commander said we were being engaged. Following a quick attack, I was then told to proceed 5km to the location of friendly forces. My Warrior had been re-tasked, so we were on our brown taxis!

We then walked between many stands including an ammunition resupply in an enemy minefield, a mass casualty serial, an obstacle crossing, AFV recognition, captured persons stand, a military knowledge test and an ambush, all followed by a 5-miler back to camp in the morning. When we arrived, the battalion formed upon the square with the Brigade Commander there to present the prizes. My section was declared the winning team and we marched out to receive our prizes. We may be the best-dismounted section in the battalion but judging by the giggles in the ranks behind me we must be pretty bad at drill! Oh well, I'll take killers over drillers in my section any day. All in all, it was an enjoyable and well put together competition and a welcome break from the armoured side of soldiering. I look forward to any challengers next year who want to take my trophy!

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