04 May 2016

Sevenoaks excel in Military Skills Competition

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Despite being the underdog, Sevenoaks School CCF had a remarkable result in the 11 Brigade Annual Military Skills Competition, taking third place from the CCF teams competing and even better was placing second out of ALL the teams competing in the March and Shoot competition.

As it was the first time that we have entered a team we did not fully know what to expect. Preparations began early with a squad of 13 Year 10 cadet volunteers and two Lower Sixth students undergoing intensive training led by Captain Mavroleon. Due to the variety of skills that could be tested, the training needed to be broad, thorough and focussed. Within the first few weeks of training, the squad had fired air rifles, practised camouflage and concealment, overcome challenging command tasks and could strip a rifle to its component parts, blindfolded, in under 40 seconds. Much of the training focussed on weapon handling, which, as we shortly found out, was time well spent as a large portion of the competition involved using and firing the Cadet SA80 Rifle.

We arrived at Longmoor Training Camp late one Friday evening, now as a team of only eight selected from the original 15 and led by Cadet Sergeant Anastasia Spiridonova. Following the mandatory briefings from the Cadet Training Team, the team settled into their accommodation for a somewhat nervous night’s sleep not knowing what the following day would bring. By this time, we had scoped out the competition and it seemed that there were nine teams competing in total, four from school CCFs, and five from regional Army Cadet Forces. I think the Sevenoaks team were somewhat surprised by the professionalism of the other teams who were marching smartly everywhere, but we certainly held our own.

The Saturday of the competition included the majority of the skills testing, beginning with a demanding Fire Control Orders stand, where the team captain, Ana, was required to identify and direct the team onto visual targets using correct military terminology and procedure. Not an easy task for the first stand! We were relieved when that particular stand had finished. We quickly moved onto the command task where the team had to successfully cross a ‘ravine’ using planks of wood which would not stretch the distance on their own. Normally one of our strengths, this command task seemed to get the better of us and although we undoubtedly came up with the most creative of solutions, sadly creativity is not always aligned with success. We were however commended for our teamwork and leadership.

The Dismounted Close Combat Trainer (DCCT) is a wonderful training aid where cadets can shoot rifles adapted to fire lasers at screens that can show a variety of targets, ranges, scenarios etc. Six of our team of eight had never fired the cadet rifle before and the electronic range served as a useful practice for the upcoming live fire range later that day.

Along with the testing stands, the cadets also visited a weapons familiarisation stand hosted by the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment. Here the cadets were able to handle regular army equipment such as the General Purpose Machine Gun, the Glock 9mm Pistol and look through both night vision image enhancing and thermal (IR) sensitive scopes.  

While all the stands brought challenges during which the cadets learned new skills and developed their teamwork I can only cover them briefly here. The ‘mystery’ stand for the competition was archery. This should have played to our strengths, with Ed Norman, a previous winner of the Summer Camp archery competition, on our team. There must have been something in the air however, as most of our arrows seemed to have minds of their own.

Fortunately our rifle shooting was straight and true and we put in some excellent scores, indeed Marcell Veszpremi and Ivan Avanesov were congratulated on their scores and neither had ever fired that particular rifle before. Other stands included putting together range cards used by sentries, conducting a search for objects in the complete dark using night vision and further testing of weapon handling. At the end of day one, the general feeling in the team was very positive. We knew we had disappointing results on a couple of events but had more than made up for it with shooting and our range cards.

Day two consisted solely of the coveted March and Shoot competition. Of all the events, this is taken the most seriously and teams were out practising their pacing and talking through tactics. The event began with an intensive warm-up, regular army style, which had the cadets quite literally flying through the sky.

Then came the march. Running was forbidden so the team had to speed walk over a couple of kilometres up to the rifle range. Hannah Kang Wolter and Jackson Wen set the pace and did tremendously well to keep going even during the final gruelling couple of hundred metres.

Finally, there was the shoot where the team had ten rounds to fire, without any sighters or adjustments. Having impressed with our shooting the day before, the team were hoping for another good result.

A little while later, the teams gathered for prizegiving and we were delighted to be awarded third place from the CCF teams competing. Even better was placing second out of all the teams competing in the March and Shoot competition.

I was extremely impressed by the positive attitude of both the squad and the final team selected who I hope learned a great deal and will spread their newly acquired skills and positive attitude to the rest of the CCF. Many thanks also to Kris Lewis for kindly giving up her weekend to provide both moral support and transport for the team.

The team: Anastasia Spiridonova (team captain), Ed Norman (team second in command), Ivan Avanesov, Hannah Kang Wolter, Tilly Robson, Finn Tyndall, Marcell Veszpremi, Jackson Wen

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