A military landrover isn’t the most comfortable vehicle at the best of times, fill it with guys and girls in full battle dress and rifles then get it off the Tarmac and its enough to loosen even the best dentistry. Cramped and loud, there’s no creature comforts in there, no leather padded seats to cushion my complaining derrière which wastes no time reminding me of that fact every time the driver skilfully picks out another pothole. My view out the front is obscured by the head of the vehicle commander in the passenger seat, and with no side windows in the tarpaulin, I look out the exposed back door instead. I’m greeted by another vehicle exactly like mine, filled with the same number of similarly dressed troops, no doubt enjoying the same level of creature comforts and wishing they were somewhere else – just like me.
It all changes in that instant – we’re hit and the ‘rover screeches to a ungainly halt. Inside we’re in a picture of panic, thrown forward and sideways, voices shouting, expressions of confusion etched on our faces.
That’s the second vehicle hit. They’re stopped and gripped in the same shock as we are, 50 ft behind us.
Then the gunfire. “Contact Left!!!”
Now we move, and fast. It’s an ambush and we’re sitting ducks here – get out the vehicle, get out now. The training kicks in. We dismount the vehicles in the fashion we were shown, both vehicles are empty, no casualties. Great. Now let’s keep it that way.
That was close. They’re getting rounds onto us. We’ve got to get their heads down. I bring my weapon up into the aim and fire two rounds in the direction of the incoming fire. I’m not alone. The rest of the squad do exactly the same. The air is filled with the deafening rattle of rifle reports and the smell of cordite.
We can’t stay here, we’re in the open.
A screamed command from the boss and we’re moving. The procedure is rehearsed and it starts to happen. It relies on speed and action, fire and move. I fire two more rounds and move under the cover of the other guys. I get into the aim and fire, they move. Fire and move, fire and move. I’ve found a little in the way of cover 20ft from the stricken first vehicle and I use it to pull a smoke grenade from my webbing. Remember the drill. Pull pin, check wind, throw. I launch it up wind and in front of us and it ignites on landing. The flame is visible from the canister as the smoke starts. It seems like forever but it’s only seconds before the smoke screen begins to take shape. A second canister thrown from the other vehicle assists in its formation.
Peeling away under the cover of the smoke and the continuing fire cover we’re on the hoof. Fire & move, fire & move. It’s exhausting, breathing is laboured under the body armour but the adrenalin is driving the limbs and the mind. Pulling the trigger once more I get the “dead man’s click.” Working parts of the rifle are stuck to the rear of the weapon, I’m out of ammo. Magazine off, new one on. Fire. We’re picking up speed now, no casualties so far as I can see. Incoming fire still there. Fire , move , fire.
A bellowed command has us peeling into the cover of small wooded area, fire-move-fire- move- mag change – fire – move, it goes on.
I slump to the deck and look left and right to see effort etched on the crimson faces of my patrol. We are crouched and checking each other out, changing magazines, doing up webbing pouches, sorting our kit out, ready to react if required.
There’s an uneasy silence – no gunfire, incoming or outgoing. Just the panting of sweating troops and the metallic clicking of preparing weapons.
A figure looms out of the clearing smoke in front of us, he’s under 6ft tall, hands behind his back, beret clamped to his head like its glued there. “That was sh&t!” he bellows. “If that was for real, very few of you would have got out of there!”
I’m looking left and right, I’m met with the expressions all too common in engineers playing soldiers….it says:
” Oh no, we’re going to have to do this all over again til we get it right.”
This training is something we all do before we deploy. We train for the “just in case” for the “you never know.” It’s essential. We moan about doing it, we can bitch with the best of them, but deep down everyone of us accepts we’d rather have the training and not need it, than need it and not have it.
This is just a taster of what happens, it may not be quite what you were expecting to hear from the blog of an Aircraft Engineer – and that was my aim. I want to show you how diverse it can be, and over the next few blogs I will endeavour to do just that.
Now, any volunteers to help me pick up all that brass….?