The Commissioning Course during COVID-19

Life at RMAS within the constraints of COVID-19 (C-19) has been a significant challenge. Despite this, the requirement to deliver exceptional training has remained extant. Like all training establishments, there has been no choice but to enact change in order to facilitate a safe training environment to achieve strategically driven outputs. The fluidity of the C-19 threat continues to require robust control measures, driven by Government and Defence policy, to enable the continuous delivery of world-class leadership training. This has presented many new challenges for instructors and Officer Cadets alike.

C-19 has driven a complete training programme overhaul, hard work for many, but the changes have also fired up many dormant imaginations! Previous training techniques were no longer safe and the requirement to think ‘outside the box’ has enabled creative and meaningful lessons, setting a new standard for the delivery of training for future Officer Cadets. Of note, the delivery of training via virtual means has proven particularly effective and is something that must continue to be exploited Army-wide.

The biggest challenge I have faced as an instructor has been the delivery of virtual training. Whilst subjects such as Drill, Field Craft, and Skill at Arms needed to be taught in the usual way (albeit with some imaginative, C-19 compliance!). I have had to completely adapt my teaching style to achieve the required impact through virtual means. This was particularly challenging during the periods of Controlled Monitoring during the first two weeks of each term. Although C-19 has presented many obstacles along the road to gaining a Commission, the professional and motivated attitude by all involved has seen every platoon adapt, overcome and reach the much-anticipated Sovereign’s Parade.

Throughout my career, I have often been inspired by officers. However, prior to attempting the RMAS SNCO Selection Cadre (2019), my understanding of what Officer Cadets did at RMAS was limited. As a JNCO I believed that RMAS was a finishing school that taught elocution, fine dining, and how not to do drill! How wrong I was! I was astounded at the amount of responsibility placed upon Officer Cadets from their very first moment at the Academy. The development of these young leaders is facilitated through several challenging areas. Alongside deploying on numerous tactical exercises in austere environments with ever-increasing levels of complexity, their academic, physical and emotional rigour are also tested to capacity in a myriad of different ways. The motivation and drive I have witnessed from these young men and women are incredible and something I had limited exposure prior to my time at RMAS. The most impressive display of this is during Ex LONG REACH. After only 8 weeks of training, Officer Cadets are expected to navigate up to 70km around the Black Mountains carrying upward of 35kgs whilst conducting command tasks at each checkpoint. Most people would barely survive this, but I have been lucky to witness so many thrive!