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Ranks from O Squadron of 43 Commando conduct Ex Revenant Shadow

20 February 2016
Ranks from O Squadron of 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines, who are usually deployed ‘behind the wire’ to conduct Nuclear Security duties in support of the MOD Police recently deployed to Sennybridge in Wales to brush up on their green/soldiering skills. Mne McMullen from O Squadron describes the exercise.

Time for one last check of BBC weather.com, maybe this time it will be different, hopes are high, maybe this time it will stay dry or maybe even sunshine, is that too much to hope for, alas it is not to be! This is Sennybridge after all, our home for the next 10 days and the forecast is sideways rain!!

As I power down my phone and shove it in a dry bag my mind can’t help but wander back to 12 hours before, to the image of the biffed warriors laughing and joking, clutching their med chits close to their chests like winning lotto tickets as we sombre few board the pussers time machine,  I curse them, forget them, time to get the game face on.

This is Ex REVANANT SHADOW, 10 days in Sennyfridge, designed to blow out the cobwebs on O Squadron’s field skills and to give us a chance to get back to basics following a busy operational year on rotations ‘behind the wire’ conducting Nuclear Security duties.  

Over the course of the next few days the troops re-familiarised themselves with reconnaissance procedures, with each section being given an area of potential enemy activity.

The exercising troops consist of 5 sections in total, with 2 sections drawn each from Comacchio Troop and Dubrovnik Troop (formerly 2 and 3 Troop respectively), O Sqn, and a further section drawn from R Squadron (unlucky lads).

After departing the coach and arranging ourselves in sections, the exercise began with a small insertion yomp to our harbour position, a small innocent looking woodblock at the bottom of a hill. It wasn't raining and morale was relatively high, maybe the BBC had got it wrong?

After setting up a harbour and digging in for the night it was time to get in it, and bring on those sweet dreams.

I woke with a jolt as a dart of coldness shot down my back like I had been struck by an arrow. As I gathered my wits I realised that something was rushing over my roll mat, into my bivvy bag and accumulating in the bottom of my snug pack, surrounding my feet and legs.

After banging on the head torch and jumping to my feet, I come to the realisation that I am lying in the path of a gushing stream. Popping out of the poncho I see a number of figures running frantically around trying to rescue themselves from the same predicament as me, this offers little consolation. 

There will be no more sleep for me tonight. What a great start to the exercise.

The next morning after concluding that the harbour, now akin to a WW1 movie about the Somme, was no longer workable, it was decided to perform a hasty attack on Farm 4. This was good news indeed, especially to the men bailing out their shell scrapes with their mess tins, me included.

On completion of the attack the exercising troops settled into their new home and began the task of turning it into a secure FOB then moving onto the more pressing issues of drying out their sleeping bags!!

Over the course of the next few days the troops re-familiarised themselves with reconnaissance procedures, with each section being given an area of potential enemy activity.

The task included delivering a full set of orders, creating route cards, building model pits, undertaking the patrols and subsequently writing up the patrol reports.

This was a great opportunity for some of the more senior marines and LCpl's to step into the position of section commander and take charge of the recce from start to finish.  After each section had conducted a number of recce patrols and identified enemy positions, HQ elements then began formulating plans for attacking the positions as the next stage of the exercise.

This was the format of the exercise, which saw sections rotate between fire support, assaulting sections, and enemy details allowing each section a chance to experience the different elements of a troop attack.

With Intel suggesting that the “enemy” had regrouped at Farm 16,  HQ decided/were told that we would undertake a night raid with Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) and  using IR cyalumes (glow sticks) to distinguish friend from foe.

Sennybridge had other ideas as the thick clag rendered the NVG's useless. After persevering for as long as possible it was decided to ditch the NVG's and assault without them utilising Shmoolies/Rocket Hand Fired Parachute Illuminating Flares.

The assault on Farm 16 was a good chance to rectify mistakes made on the previous assaults.

After Farm 16 was taken, the pace of the exercise relaxed a little with the Directing Staff and HQ running a few teach exercises allowing some of the marines to again step up as section commander and take control through fire team attack lanes, section attack lanes and ultimately a troop level advance to contact.

The exercise culminated in a dawn attack on the enemy final strong hold position at another ridiculously Welsh named objective.

This was a final chance to put all the skills and drills honed during the past 10 days into practice.

After overwhelming and defeating all the enemy on position, we moved straight into a small extraction yomp to our pick-up point at Dixies Corner.

Despite the sideways sleet, morale was high as we piled onto the coach bound for Sennybridge camp where we would get our first hot shower in 10 days. Another Sqn Green Ex in the bag, and the start of the pilgrimage back to sunny Scotland.  

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