Superb Performance at Combat Cadet Exercise
Ben Brooks, team captain, reports on Stamford School's superb performance at the recent Exercise Combat Cadet competition.
"Confidence was high in the weeks leading up to the competition as possibly the strongest team yet went through their final preparations. Unfortunately, George Sharman had to drop out at the last minute with a virus and we were loading up on the day of the competition with a seven man team. Will Bacon, Patrick Conboy and Joe Cooke deserve a special mention for joining us at eleven o'clock that night, Will and Patrick having done their week-long gold D of E in the Lakes, and Joe having been recruited as a last minute replacement. Being a predominantly male team we lived up to expectations when we turned up to Stanta in Norfolk with three tents, none of which were complete.
"The admin team got us off to a good start with breakfast the next morning and we set off on the Saturday for a testing day ahead. The competition consists of nine technical stands on the Saturday, a night navigation exercise and then a five kilometre run and assault course on Sunday morning. We battled our way through numerous tasks including signals, command tasks and observation, that tested our knowledge and team work. The hot weather added interest when walking the kilometre or two between stands with weapons and webbing but the team made good progress throughout the day, with Tom Perks and Zak Pywell contributing well. One of the highlights was the First Aid stand, where we were briefed on the very basics and told to react accordingly whilst they assessed basic First Aid, leadership and teamwork. The eight man squad patrolled through some trees to find a helicopter crash site with multiple casualties. Jake Adams and Will Bacon administered First Aid as the rest secured the site before we pulled out for a medivac. We were highly complimented and came second out of eighteen teams in that particular stand. The rest of the day passed well enough with the team putting huge amounts of efforts into the remaining stands and coming sixth overall. It was hugely impressive and inspiring to see the way the boys pulled together and did everything possible to not let down their team mates.
"The boys grabbed some food and sleep that night as the briefings were given for the next couple of phases. We always knew that it would be difficult to match the ACF units on the Saturday as they have far more time to rehearse for the technical elements but from then on it was down to fitness alone and we felt we could pull it back. Our night navigation slot was at 21.20 and we arrived at the start to thick fog and poor visibility despite the bright moon. Each cadet had a rifle and webbing with water bottle, warm clothes, food and a torch and we had one and a half hours to collect eight markers over the large Stanta training area. It was break neck speed to begin with and the team did well, working efficiently as Ben Brooks and Jake Adams navigated their way through fog so thick you could not see more than ten metres in front. It hit home how difficult it was going to be when a marshal at one of the points told us three teams had members drop out with twisted ankles and more as they tried to run between points as we were doing. The day’s exertions started to tell as cadets struggled with the relentless pace and we had to slow to navigate the rough ground. The camaraderie was extraordinary and the final moments as the boys carried each other over the line were worthy of any epic film. We had made it home with all eight points and with seven minutes to spare, the fourth best effort of the night and only a minute off the top slot.
"It is safe to say that despite having no sides to our tents and sleeping almost on top of each other, the boys slept like babies and awoke early the next morning for the final stages. With the promise of another sweltering day ahead, Stamford had fortunately drawn the earliest slot for the run and assault course on the Sunday morning. The boys limbered up for the final time and set off in formation, full of confidence. The pace was brutal and understandably boys started to suffer but the PT officer looked on in awe as the boys cajoled, bullied and encouraged each other to greater efforts. Ollie Baker and Patrick Conboy were outstanding in their efforts on the run, leading by example the whole way, and we completed the run in a competitive time which ended up being a minute off the fastest time. With five minutes from the end of the run till the start of the assault course we took on vital fluids and kitted up, going through in our minds how we would tackle each obstacle. The next six minutes were an adrenaline fuelled rush, thirteen foot walls and cargo nets went by in a blur as the boys put everything on the line in a last ditched attempt to get some silverware and as the last man collapsed across the line we could all be proud of the fact that we had given absolutely everything.
"Unfortunately it was a weekend of near misses. We came so close on so many occasions but finished fourth overall with little separating us from the top spot. A huge thank you has to go Joe Cooke for stepping up at seven o’clock in the evening on the Friday of the competition and competing very well with fantastic spirit throughout. Furthermore, a big thank you to Lieutenant Holdsworth and Second Lieutenant McCarthy for taking us up there, James Petrie and RSM Denham for the sturdy job in the admin department and Captain Dexter for his training in the build up. Without them the competition would be that much harder and far less enjoyable."
Warrant Officer Brooks
Colour Sargent Perks
Lance Corporal Pywell
Lance Corporal Cooke