Saving Private Sekou
He would make a damn good soldier
Private-for-the-day Hendrickson SAS, was, it must be said, just a little apprehensive when ordered to volunteer for Regiment duty.
Apprehension turned to something close to horror when he was told it was a 6am start at Warwick Camp.
But, like a real trouper — or possibly trooper — he lived up to his serendipitous initials, the same as the renowned UK Special Air Service, and threw himself into the task with gusto.
The 21-year-old displayed a good level of physical fitness as he powered his way through most of the obstacles and fitted in well with the rest of the recruits.
A little bit of a haircut and a shave and he would make a damn fine soldier. Pass.
Saving Private Ryan is one of my favourite movies.
And I felt in need of a little help myself as I limbered up for a forbidding assault course at Warwick Camp after being ordered to volunteer for what I was assured would be the experience of a lifetime.
Private-for-the-day Hendrickson SAS — and that is my initials, not my regiment — reported for duty at 6am on a Sunday morning — which was punishment enough for one day for a dyed-in-the-wool civilian, or so I thought.
But worse was to come — I was kitted out in combats, a helmet and webbing before joining the real trainee soldiers in the Royal Bermuda Regiment’s first summer recruit camp for an early morning romp around the assault course.
This was a new experience for me — but Private James Greenfield, 18, assured me this was part and parcel of life in the island’s defence force.
Private Greenfield, from Southampton, a bar porter at the Hog Penny in Hamilton, said: “We have to wake up early every day, get our stuff sorted out, do drills, and then, near the afternoon, we usually eat and have rifle lessons.”
The 23 privates were split into three units for a race against the clock judged on the performance of the whole team.
Because I was an untrained civilian my role was clear — trail behind the teams, do not force anything, and keep out of the way of the competition.
Veteran instructor Sergeant Kenton Trott adjusted my helmet and webbing and I was ready to go.
We started by climbing halfway up a 50-foot wooden wall in single file and then back down again.
Climbing behind other people takes a certain amount of co-ordination, which I usually lack, but despite being a bit slow I managed to match the rhythm of others.
Next was an uphill jog, three metres of tyres to step through and a rope swing over a ditch.
Although the tyres were not as bad as I had thought, the ditch looked like the Grand Canyon. But I made it over.
The tunnel crawl was also a formidable obstacle — what looked like half a mile underground — and I am not all that comfortable in confined spaces.
But the honour of The Royal Gazette was at stake so I got down and started to crawl.
I was pleased to learn there really is light at the end of the tunnel — and this temporary soldier was delighted to re-emerge into daylight at the conclusion.
The halfway point was a net stretched tight and with only a single rope to hang on to for stability.
I had only seen obstacles like this at amusement parks, but instead of a plush toy, my prize for finishing was a stitch in my side.
My agility was further tested with a series of balance beams and hurdles followed by a crawl underneath strings of barbed wire.
By this point my helmet refused to stay on my head and the wire got lower as the crawl went on.
Still, once out, I thought I had enough power to get over a 15-foot wooden wall by myself.
I was wrong.
The wall had very little finger space and required a bit of a boost from a helpful Sergeant to get me up and over.
The last obstacle was a series of horizontal poles you had to either go under or jump over.
Helpful Sergeant got a bit more soldierly and ordered me to do it again after I mixed up my overs and unders.
In my defence, it is an easy mistake to make when you have the finishing line in sight.
Despite my scratched forearms and repeat of the final obstacle, I am proud to say I finished the assault course in a respectable time — although I was not carrying a 10lb SA-80 rifle like the rest of the troops, who had also had a bit of a tough week what with one thing and another.
I did not have the same equipment or fatigue as the three sections of trainees, so the course felt more like an energising challenge than a gruelling boot camp.
Suffice to say, I would not mind going again. After all, nothing could ever beat the sunrise that followed.
They even gave me breakfast — which was a lot better than I imagined army food would be. Mind you, the RBR owed me some calories. I reckon I had burnt off a few thanks to them.
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