A Crafty’s Perspective
On the evening of Thursday 05 July 2012, a number of Territorial Army soldiers from 103 Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) met at Hilsea, Portsmouth, with the summary from the Administration Instructions still echoing in the back of their mind: “This expedition will prove to be a challenging but hugely rewarding experience for all Battalion personnel that have volunteered to attend”. The aim of the exercise was to develop teamwork and to provide challenging, arduous and fun events to test everybody’s limits.
We then departed as a convoy, met-up with others at Ashford, Kent and were soon the other side of the Eurotunnel travelling across Europe. After an unforgiving journey we finally arrived at the REME Adventure Training Centre (ATC) in Gunzesried-Säge, Bavaria, at around 1500 hrs local time.
Once settled in we were briefed by the senior instructor and Exercise Controller, SSgt Matt Towl, including the groups we were in and the schedule of exciting activities including kayaking, mountaineering skills and mountain biking. After the intensity of the week was outlined the majority of us decided wisely to get our heads down for the night.
The first activity on Saturday was kayaking and, after gaining numerous funny looks walking around in wetsuits as they failed to show off some of the more muscular physiques, we then drove down to a beautiful glaciated lake. Peoples skills on the water developed quickly and they soon became competent in a kayak, although this was probably due more to the fact they hated going underwater so would do anything not to capsize! Everyone was advancing their skills, with a couple even successfully achieving Eskimo rolls by the end of the day under motivational direction from the instructor.
It soon became apparent what excellent facilities and enthusiastic instructors were present at the REME ATC, with food that got us through each day and refuelled us at night.
Whilst mountain biking, Cfn Ben Lewis came off his bike a couple of times in spectacular fashion. The second unfortunate incident involved him attempting to dodge a cow pat but ended up landing right in it! Luckily a local farmer was on hand to hose him down to ensure no muck was left in any cuts but unluckily his ‘muckas’ had decided to film the whole event, dubbed “Two Blokes, One Hose”. His yelps and cries will probably be available on YouTube any day now.
Another incident involved WO2 ‘Daz’ Parkinson, the Battalion Safety Officer, carrying out a perfect dynamic risk assessment of a particular route during mountaineering and discovering it definitely was not the route to take after falling. The hard slog up the mountain was always worth it though with breathtaking views like the one below.
Every evening stories were exchanged in the bar and it became clear tht adventures were being had by all, including a tough walk so emotional it became known as the “Walk to God”.
By Wednesday the core adventure training had come to a close and the next activities were decided upon. A choice between Area 47 Waterpark or a cultural visit for Wednesday and a high-rope course on Thursday. Area 47 lived up to all expectations promised on its website with a swimming lake, a thrilling waterslide park and a diving platform that definitely proved challenging. Reports from the cultural visit to Dachau were also positive and interesting, but naturally very humbling.
The high-rope course on Thursday morning, Kletterwald Bärenfalle, had many different levels which made it suitable for everyone including the Battalion’s vertigo-suffering pilot, Cfn Phil Thurlby. Everyone complained of using “muscles they never knew they had” but were provided a chance to relax them on a thrilling ride down the side of the mountain on the Alpsee Coaster. The evening included a BBQ which, along with many happy memories, prepared us for the long journey back that night.
Overall it was definitely my favourite trip so far with the TA and lived up to the original summary in the Admin Order, with Cfn Hayley Cieciora commenting “It was the best adventure training I’ve ever done!”.