One of the more nuanced elements of military training to explain to the civilian employers of the officers and soldiers of 3 Military Intelligence Battalion (3 MI Bn), is the notion of “adventurous training”. This is particularly the case when this involves skiing!
What may seem on the surface to be entirely recreational by the untrained eye, was in fact a week of testing skiing and education under the Ski Foundation Joint Services Ski Scheme with the aim to ‘develop individual courage and leadership skills through controlled exposure to risk’. Over a one week course in La Plagne, France in Jan 2017, each and every participant had their nerve, skills and physical endurance tested in some way, through attempting Ski Foundation Level 1, 2 or 3 qualifications or specialist Continuation Training.
The programme balanced time on pisted slopes, developing onto off-piste routes and then taking this further through ski-touring and practicing potentially life-saving avalanche transceiver drills at speed and over distance. Evening lectures ranging from avalanche awareness to meteorology supplemented each day on the slopes, and were complemented by video reviews of participants, as well as admiring Youtube videos of those who had been lucky enough to spend rather more time on the slopes than any of us!
Thin snow cover for the first half of the week provided a seamless transition to a number of ski maintenance and repair lessons; with a few participants comfortably in the running to join the MoD ski repair team at Bicester! Some welcome snow arrived by the end of the week, which provided not only a perfect ski surface, but also critical building material for training in the construction of emergency snow shelters and snow-holes.
Participants varied from first time skiers, to those on the cusp of becoming instructors. For all participants, the exercise set the goal to further enhance their skills through the Ski Foundation courses, and for those at the top of their game to go on to support ski activity for those injured on operations, as exemplified by 3 MI Bn’s Quartermaster supporting the Battle Back scheme.
Alongside the focussed and sometimes arduous elements of training, participants indulged in one evening of cheese and meat fondues to soak up some true French culture and cuisine. Alongside this, a visit to the nearby Olympic bobsleigh park provided an added learning dimension for all – one where inquisitive groups of four were placed into modified bobsleighs, with no steering or brakes and released down the track…
At the end of the exercise, 35 participants successfully passed Ski Foundation courses with 21 directed to conduct continuation training to consolidate their experience. The exercise would not have been possible without the generous grants provided to 3 MI Bn, for which all participants are extremely grateful.
Capt Martin Kent, 33 MI Coy Training Officer, 3 MI Bn