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POC Diary by Deadhead, 2006

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Deadhead
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POC Diary by Deadhead, 2006

#1 Post by Deadhead » Sun 09 Apr, 2006 1:19 pm

Arrival

Most of the lads on my POC arrived on the Sunday, apart from a couple who lived locally, and one lad who turned up at 1am Monday (poor soul). If you're travelling any sort of distance I advise you to do the same, as the last thing you want is to be worrying about trains on Monday. There's quite enough to keep you occupied. Everyone was checked into the Tobruk accomodation just down from the parade ground, which is bunk beds (two to a room) with sheets and blankets. Keep the rooms tidy, as they do check to make sure you're not leaving a mess, although there aren't any formal inspections. Besides, everything has to be tidied before you leave.

Once I'd dropped my stuff off in my room, I went back up the Oficers Mess to find everybody else. Everyone got chatting, sharing a joint fear of Bottom Field and the Endurance Course, while pouring water into themselves all night. As far as I know pretty much everybody there had had nothing but pasta to eat for a while, and a lot of people had been off booze for a month or so. I think getting to know each other a little bit helped for the rest of the course, as we were all going to be relying on each other at various points.

Scran was at 18:30, and it's pretty good. Three course meals, the fastest service in the world (if you eat quickly you can get through three courses in less than ten minutes), and they don't stint on the portions. Mind you, I guess you never see a fat marine, so the calories must be getting burned off. After scran everyone was back in the bar, drinking yet more water, before turning in about 2200-2300. All night long you could hear people getting up to pee.




Monday

Breakfast is at 7:00, so pretty much everybody was up at 6, getting washed etc. It is important to shave everyday, even if you don't normally (like me). A couple of lads didn't, and got a bollocking on Tuesday from the Captain. Back into suits again for breakfast (if you're not in your room, asleep, or doing phys, you will be in a suit). Make sure you bring enough shirts. I found four just about enough, but at least one will get covered in grime, because there isn't enough time to wash properly after the endurance course. There's cereals and fried food for brekky. I stuck to shreddies, followed by bacon and egg. Didn't want to eat too much, my nerves were getting to me at this point. After breakfast there isn't anything to do until 11:30, so we all got cleaned up and went into the newspaper room at the officers mess and chatted. A few lads who had got in during the morning were all there as well, so the round of names began again. At 11:30 the PTI walked in. "POC, follow me, no talking".


Gulp


That's the 'boring' part of POC. It was also the last time I did anything at a leisurely pace until Tuesday evening.



Initial brief

The CSgt PTI who ran the phys part of the POC gave us a quick lecture, detailing what we were going to be doing (no real surprises), and passing out POC T-Shirts and water bottles. There's also admin, checking who's present, a few people handing in personal summaries that they didn't have time to post, etc etc. A lad who had passed POC and failed AIB was made duty student. Essentially he's in charge of making sure you keep tp time during the course, with his watch synchronised to the PTI's. If you're late, you're all in the sh*t, just he's in it deeper. All told there were 18 on our course, but 1 failed to turn up. A couple of points:

1) Carry your water bottle everywhere you go at POC. If you forget it, you're for the high jump. Besides, you need the oggin.

2)The lecturette is definately about YOU. One lad didn't know that, so had to rewrite his over Monday night. I think a few AFCO's (all of them Navy rather than RM), have out of date info on the POC, although they are gradually catching up.

After the initial brief, we went to get kit issued. From now on we were marching as a group whenever we went anywhere. Just try to keep in step. A lot of the lads had been in OTC, RMR, or the TA, so it wasn't a problem. Kit was two pairs of dpm trousers, a rugby shirt, a T-shirt (both green, unsurprisingly) and a combat jacket. Although I brought my own boots with me, I asked for a pair, so to see if they were more comfortable (mine are pretty old). The issued boots come with insoles etc, which really helped my feet. I didn't get the shin splints I usually get when I run. Then it was back to the accomodation block quickly before lunch. Even though there's not much time between lunch and the RMFA, keep putting the calories and fluids in. Believe me you need them.

After lunch we fell in on POC parade, which is a paved walkway just up from the accomodation. We stayed there until the PTI collected us for a course photo and a second brief from the Captain: This ran over the various things we would be doing, and the benchmarks of the RMFA. For the record, below level 11 on the bleep test, failure to do 10 press ups, and failure to do 1 chin up will get you sent home. (I'll go over the structure of the RMFA later). Pass score of 180. Following the brief from the captain, it was off to get changed and then into the RMFA.


RMFA

Bleep Test

We lined up outside the gym and were given numbered bibs in two teams (red and blue). We stayed in these teams for the rest of the week. Once we were bibbed up, we were into the gym. From now on we were running at two speeds. Stock still and Mach 10. No scratching, no fidgeting of any kind, as this will get you press ups. They notice everything. After a quick demonstration of 'attention' 'at ease' and 'double time', we were into the bleep test. The first few levels were a warm up. One of the corporals kept pace with us up to level 7, then dropped out. I think this was the most nerve wracking part of POC for me, as I'd not done a bleep test for several years, and didn't want to get sent home early. Nerves are a massive factor here I think. By the time I got to level 4 I was shaking from adrenaline. Try and keep calm, as I don't think level 11 is a stupid target. Only one lad failed on the bleep test, and he was coming off an injury at the time. Everybody else passed. I got 11.8 (I'm not very good at running fast), I think the highest was 14.4. As you're taken off the bleep test you grab your water bottle and walk round in a circle. Once you've all finished you line up and the PTI takes your score, so when you finish the bleep test MAKE SURE YOU REMEMBER WHEN YOU STOPPED RUNNING. One lad couldn't remember (other than it wasn't 11), and had to guess. One lad, who will remain nameless, said 13, when I KNOW he came off the same time as me. Tw*t. After that it's into the press ups.


Press ups

Everybody here knows the drill, and the PTI's do a quick demo, but I'll go over it again. Hands shoulder width apart, elbows in. You get marks taken off every time they go out. One person lies on the floor, fist out stretched on the floor, and head turned the other way. Chest down to the fist (which is turned so it's the flattest it can be), your partner counts. You only count the ones that touch your fist. Some people didn't realise it was 'RM' press ups, and struggled a bit. I think the lowest score was 14, highest 60. I got 49, which was in the top 5 or 6. Trying to get up afterwards my arms were like rubber. Once one side has gone then the other goes. After that it's sit ups.


Sit ups

Again, the PTI's do a demo. One person holds your feet, and it's elbows to the TOP of your knees. Keep your knees together or you get points deducted. One lad was going up and down to the accompaniment 'one off' 'one off' 'three off' 'don't count that one' 'for f@#k sake, knees to-f@#k-gether!'. Highest score was 85, Most people got around the 50-60 mark. I scored 76, which was third highest I think (well chuffed). Again, each side takes in turns. Then it's on to the chin ups.


Chin ups

(Just before we started chin ups one lad puked all over the gym floor. Try and avoid this, obviously, but don't give up. He didn't, and although he had to clean it up, he passed RMFA and POC.)

For this we had to line up in our two teams. After the demo, we went in pairs. You grip onto the bar, take your legs off the bar (if you're tall enough to not have to jump), and do chin ups to the commands of the PTI. Bend, stretch, chin right over the top of the bar. When you either fall off the bar or they decide you can't do any more, you form up in lines next to the bar. Highest was 11, lowest was 1 (just). I got 10. Most people scored between 5 and 8.



After a quick cool down and stretched, we got changed back into suits and fell in on POC parade.

Having finished POC and the RMFA, I'd say that although the upper body strength is important, place more emphasis on leg strength and running. My scores were in the top four or so for my POC, apart from my bleep test, and I think the bleep test was a better reflection on how I coped with the rest of the course. Lots of runs, runs with weights, work on building up your leg strength. Obviously don't neglect the press ups etc, but it's not the be all and end all.


Interview and essay

Once we were lined up on POC parade, the CSgt came out and read out the names of the people who had failed RMFA. 6 failed at this point, leaving 11 left. All gear handed back in and out of Lympstone. Most lads were planning on coming back, as far as I know.

After we'd been 'culled', we went for the essays. During the essay (two sides of A4), we were taken out for the interview. Due to the size of the course, the interview was pretty short. They looked at why I wanted to join the marines, incidents where I had to motivate myself, had displayed leadership, organised events. Questions on the Corps were fairly limited, just where I could go after passing out, and where the three commandos were at present. G & L can supply all the information you need for this. A few people were asked about commando 21, and I think we were all asked about the new weapon systems etc coming into the RM (BOWMAN, Javelin, and VIKING). Basically no real problems, as long as you've done your homework.

The essay was a choice of 4 titles:

"Give you views on the issue of gun crime in the UK"

"Do you think the west can ever win the war on terror"

"The invasion of Iraq was justified even without WMD"

"Describe an incident where you displayed leadership and what you learned from it"

I took the first one, as it was pretty similar to the essays I did in RE GCSE. Make sure you keep your spelling and grammar correct, and give your essay a decent structure. The time allowed (~50 minutes) is more than enough. As an officer we're expected to understand the issues behind our operational deployments. Make sure you read a broadsheet every day, watch BBC news, and you'll have enough information to form decent opinions.


Once we'd handed in the essays and had our interviews, we had the rest of the day free. Dinner was at 1830 (another three courses of good food), and we spent the rest of the day sitting in the bar drinking water and chatting about the next day. Most people turned in early, for obvious reasons. I don't know if it really made a difference, but the only guy who drank on Monday night wrapped during the bottom field warm up.......

Remember, the whole time you are in Lympstone, your being watched. Hands out of your pockets, keep your room and your clothes in good order. When you walk around the base, look like you're an officer.

That's it for the first day. I'll post the second day when I've written it up. Feel free to ask questions.

[EDIT - unstickied as this is no longer the most recent POC diary on here - however, it still contains much useful information, and so is well worth a read - druadan]

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#2 Post by themattmeister » Sun 09 Apr, 2006 9:39 pm

I've been waiting for someone to write one of these about the POC for ages, I'm eagerly anticipating day 2. :D

I do have a few Q's in the mean time.

Did the lad who made up his bleep test score pass or fail?

Was the warm up for the bleep test just a few sprints then?

How many beers did the other lad have? I'm not planning to drink just wondering how much of a moron he actually was.

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#3 Post by GaussianEliminator » Mon 10 Apr, 2006 12:15 am

Forgot to ask. What age where most of the guys on the course and how many passed altogether?

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#4 Post by Deadhead » Mon 10 Apr, 2006 10:15 am

The warm up for the bleep test is basically the first few levels, which are a very gentle jog. As I said, heart rate was already through the roof at the start anyway I remember taking my pulse about level 4, and thinking I was aout to have a heart attack.

The guy who 'altered' his bleep score failed the RMFA, just due to his overall score being low I think. I was quite relieved by that, as I didn't want to work with someone who was dishonest.

Out of a course of 18, 1 failed to turn up, 1 wrapped during bottom field warm up, 1 during the endurance course, and 6 during the bleep test/RMFA. 9 of us passed. Most lads were about 20-21, although there were a couple of 17 year olds, and 3 old duffers like me (24-25). I was the oldest to pass, and I was 25 the day after POC.

Day 2 will be up in the next few hours (it's taking quite a while to write).

Deadhead
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#5 Post by Deadhead » Thu 13 Apr, 2006 4:50 pm

Day Two

Our CSgt described this as Black Tuesday. On balance, I have to say he’s wrong, it’s more like Brown Tuesday. Muddy, fetid, stinking, but above all, brown.

Breakfast was at 6:45. Once again I loaded up on shreddies, as I don’t have much faith in my ability to keep a fry up down. A fair few lads dug in anyway, as they don’t seem too bothered about throwing up, as long as you don’t stop running afterwards. After scran, it’s into dpm’s, rugby shirt, jacket and boots for bottom field. Make sure you’ve shaved, some lads on our course hadn’t and we all got a lecture on the importance of looking like an officer.

One massive piece of advice I would give is take care of your feet. It took me about a week before I could walk properly, as I lost all the skin from the back of both heals and (probably) my big toenail from one foot. There’s loads of info on the rest of the forum about keeping your feet in good nick, so I won’t go over it here. Just make sure you tape your feet up etc. Half of my problems on the endurance course were made a lot worse by bad foot drill.


Bottom Field

We were collected from POC parade by the CSgt, and went to get the logs we’d use later on in the course. To be honest, they aren’t that heavy, just a bit cumbersome. One thing I found is that being quite tall (you carry the logs in height order, smallest at the front), I spent a lot of time trying to stop the log from bouncing off my shoulder. Obviously if you’re seen to be just following the log rather than carrying it, you get marked down for loafing, yet at the same time it’s quite difficult to keep the thing on your shoulder, as every time I grabbed it, it came off the shoulders of the lads at the front. Who then grabbed it back. I think most of the time the log just see-sawed over the shoulders of the guys in the middle, pounding the collarbones of those at the ends!

Once we’d marched down to the assault course, we did a short warm up (a few sprints, double time, stretches etc), before the high obstacle course. All we had to do was a run down the death slide (with a safety harness), and the punch into the scramble net. If you don’t show enough aggression on the scramble net you get sent back.


Death Slide

This really is simple. Climb into the safety harness, dip the rope toggle (the thing you hold onto while sliding) into a water barrel, and climb up to the top of the tower. Csgt attaches your safety harness, you push your hands through the loops of the toggle, grip on, and THROW yourself out. If you flop out you have to do it again. Keep your legs up until you’re told to stretch them out, the just enjoy the view until you get to the bottom, where a corporal stops you with a rope brake. Rumours that one lad on our course deliberately flopped out of the tower so he could have two goes have yet to be confirmed….


Scramble net jump

You walk up the ladder (it’s about 10 feet up I think), and walk out onto the centre of the beam. You then shout your name to the CSgt, sprint along the beam, and jump off sideways, leading with one arm. Arm through the hole in the net, lock your arm against your side. Don’t jump off forwards, as you’re not superman, and don’t lead with your leg. If you leg goes through a hole you stand a big chance of breaking it.

I got sent back on this for not being aggressive enough. Make sure you really sprint for this one. Especially if you’re like me and aren’t that good at running fast. All out sprinting for me looks like a gentle jog for normal people.


Assault Course

Once we’d all slid down a rope and jumped off a ledge it was into the warm up for the assault course. From now on you are constantly moving. If you’re standing still you’re jogging on the spot, and they DO notice if you stop. A lot of the warm up is a run through the obstacles of the course. They’ll show you three obstacles, then you’ll be expected to run back to the beginning of the set of three and hurl yourself over all of them. Don’t be last. Apart from anything else, they often shout ‘take cover’ as you’re running, and being at the back means you have a lot further to crawl. Leopard crawling is incredibly tiring, and believe me, you need the energy. With my less than stellar sprinting skills, I was often near the back. During this warm up one guy wrapped (for the record, it’s the guy who had had three pints the night before). Once we’d been through all of the obstacles, we formed up for a timed run.

That’s a very small paragraph above to describe an awful lot of work. I remember at one point looking up to find steam coming from every single person on the course. You will be bone tired within minutes, they won’t let you give anything other than full effort the entire time. No matter how hard it gets don’t give up. It is as much a mental thing as anything else.

The timed run on the assault course has a limit of five minutes. Even leaden legged me managed that (3:56). Pay attention to your technique on the obstacles, or you’ll be sent back and made to do them again. The most important thing is to make sure you jump off the obstacle two footed. I’m guessing here, but I think this might be to stop you snapping an ankle when you do the course in full kit. I found the run actually easier in the warm up in a weird way, because at least you could see the end of it.

(I’m not going to put a run down of the obstacles here, the info is probably available elsewhere)

After the timed run comes the timed log run (I think. Although I can remember everything I did, I’m not 100% sure of the order). Each member of your team (there were five left in each by now) is given an obstacle each to plan for (five minutes time limit). There must be three people carrying the log for it to be carried, and at least two at any time. The log can’t touch the floor at any point, but that’s not too difficult to avoid with five people. I ended up taking charge for the swing bridge, which is pretty easy, although I made the mistake of talking a bit too much when explaining my plan. Keep It Simple Stupid. A good time for this is apparently under 10 minutes, which we managed. Make sure you’re vocal in the obstacles which have no leader allocated. I was told afterwards that I was too quiet going round the rest of the course. They don’t just want to see how you lead when you’re in charge, but who naturally comes forwards during the whole of POC.

(One other piece of advice. The log will NOT go through the tunnel. You have to all go through separately and then take the log over the top. Apparently there have been groups that tried to take an eight foot log down a tunnel with a 90 degree bend at one end. It doesn’t work).


Log Exercises

Once we’d finished the timed run we had the joy of meeting ‘proper’ logs. It’s essentially a telegraph pole, only smooth so you don’t get any splinters. This thing is heavy. All ten of us took one log and marched back out onto bottom field. Once we were there we did a series of exercises with the log. First up we pushed it up into the air from the left shoulder, down to the left shoulder, back into the air and back onto the right. This is down to a count: 1 (up in the air), 2 (down onto the left shoulder), 3 (up), 4 (back onto the right shoulder). There were at least five NCOs and officers paying very close attention throughout this part. Make sure you do actually push the log, although it is tricky sometimes if you’re at the ends. We did this at least 20-25 times, followed by 20-25 bicep curls with the log. The whole time we were being watched to make sure we weren’t just following the movement of the log.

Once we’d finished the arms exercises we moved onto the legs. First up we put the log on the floor and lay down with our boots over the log for situps. For some reason I found this harder than the situps in the RMFA. I don’t know why. After that was possibly the worst bit of bottom field (for me anyway).

The log was at the bottom of the hill, and we lined up alongside, in the crab position. Hands on the floor, backside off the ground, feet on the log. We then had to push the log up the hill with our feet. If you’re not actively helping to push the log, the captains will shout at you for loafing. Very tiring. After that the log up the hill whilst leopard crawling. You’re only able to push the log with your elbows, not your hands, and your going up a 45 degree hill (or at least that’s what it felt like)


High Obstacles (Vertigo Test)

Once we’d finished crawling up the hill pushing a telegraph pole, we put the pole back on the racks it came from and moved onto the high obstacle test. There’s no longer a rope hang as part of the course, but you do have to pass a vertigo test. This is very simple, just a cat crawl along a rope ~20 feet up in the air, followed by a jog along one plank of wood (about a foot wide), over the gap and along another plank, before cat crawling along another rope and climbing down a scramble net. I was a little worried with how I’d deal with this bit, but I’d stopped worrying by the time we got round to it (too tired). The plank is plenty wide enough, so there is no real danger of falling off, apart from vertigo etc. No one on my course had any problem with this.


Firemans Carry

Last thing was the firemans carry. After a quick demo of how to perform the carry, you’re split up by height and away you go. First carry is 200 yards, with a time limit of 90 seconds. You then swap over (i.e. the carried becomes the carrier), and go 200 yards back across the course (which for us was slightly uphill, but the ground is pretty flat). Then a repeat carry of 100 yards, with a time limit of 45 seconds.

Don’t worry too much about the time limit, just keep moving as fast as you can. I came in at 97 seconds and 45 seconds, and I still passed. A few threads have made reference to having strong legs, and this is where I really needed them. My legs are pretty good at carrying me, for a long time, but not so good at carrying weight. Being quite tall and skinny (6’3” and about 12 stone), I also had to carry proportionally more than some of the lads on the course. (Not all though. One 55kg lad ended up carrying a guy who was the same height but weighed 80 odd). I had a 13 and a half stone rugger bugger to carry on my back. On the plus side, the ride back was quick, as he just slung me over one shoulder and motored. Leg strength and guts are the keys here. As long as you are obviously giving it everything you’ve got, and don’t fail to finish, you should be ok.

After that we simply had a cool down before taking the log race logs back and legging it off to get changed and go for lunch. Bottom field done, and it wasn’t even 12 o’clock!

I’ll post the rest of the day when I get a chance. Feel free to supply comments and/or questions.

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#6 Post by Deadhead » Thu 20 Apr, 2006 1:38 pm

Lecturette

After the quickest plate of pasta of ever (not bad though), we fell in on POC parade and were taken off to give our lecturettes. With only three minutes, it’s quite hard to screw up too badly. I think the only problem anyone had was one individual (Simmo, I’m looking at you here), who did their whole talk with their flies undone. Luckily the Captain didn’t notice. I wish I could say a bit more about this, as I know I worried about it, but to be honest, I spent most of the time thinking about the endurance course. Just stand up and talk about yourself. Make sure you keep to time (the Captain held up a ‘one minute to sign’, which was helpful), don’t swear, and do your flies up, and you can’t go far wrong. POC is primarily Phys, and unless you really really screw up, you’re not going to fail on your lecturette.


Endurance Course

This is probably the toughest thing I have ever done in my life. POC as a whole was hard. This was without doubt the hardest bit. What advice can I give? Find a hill, and run up and down it for two hours in boots. Do it when your clothes are soaking wet, your boot laces have come undone, and you’ve already been to the gym for 3 hours that morning. Do it in the mud, and stop every so often to go through tunnels, do press ups, and leopard crawl through the foulest mud you can imagine.

I’m not sure, having done the course once, if knowing what to expect would help me any. All I know is that from the beginning I was bone tired, and I stayed that way. Still, in the interests of my loyal readership, I’ll try and give a decent description.

Once we’d gotten changed back into dpm’s we fell in on POC parade, where we were met by the CSgt. We then got into the back of a Bedford and were driven off to Woodbury Common. Looking out the back, and seeing the signs for Woodbury going past, I remember wishing the lorry would never stop. Eventually it did.

We jumped off the lorry and were given a quick safety briefing by the Captain. Essentially it boiled down to ‘you’re here by your own choice, you can quit at any time’. We were then taken for a quick warm up by one of the corporals, before we ran off to the start of the course. We took with us a pick, a shovel, and a standpipe, which have to be carried all around the course, in case a tunnel caves in. You rotate the kit around so no on person is always carrying it. To be honest, it’s the least of your problems.

Once we got to the start of the endurance course, we were given a quick talk about what we’d be expected to do during officer training (more weight, more running, less time). Then we were off.

There’s really not too much to say about this, strangely. You start running, you keep running. One of the first things you come to is St Peters pool, where we were all made to duck under the water for five seconds. If you come out early, (as happened o my group twice), you go under again. One of these was my fault, as I found it hard to stay under. For the last time (we only had to go under for 3 seconds), I counted up to 8 before I came out, just to make sure. Then off we went again. I know a lot of the advice on this forum counsels against running with weight. However, it’s probably worth running in heavy wet clothes, just to get an idea for how much harder it is. Coming out of St Peter’s pool in wet gear I’m convinced my weight went up by a good 10 kilos, although obviously it goes down as you drain/dry off.

After that it’s lot’s of running uphill, careering downhill, trying not to turn an ankle, with a few breaks for tunnels, crawling and exercise. I only remember one flat bit the entire time we were on the common, and we did press ups, sit ups, and squat thrusts on it…..


Sheep Dip

This is the tunnel from the adverts, only it’s about 3 feet long, there’s nothing to catch your clothes on, they push your feet and pull your arms to get you through, and if you did get stuck, there’s a key to drain all the water out in seconds. To be honest, this was probably the nicest bit of the whole thing!


Other tunnels

Only one guy wrapped during the endurance course, and it was one of the tunnels that did it. I’m not sure if it was exhaustion or claustrophobia, but he just couldn’t go in. No real advice for these, other than keep your head down, and crawl like the blazes. You can’t always see the ends, they’re full of mud and rocks that hurt your knees, but at the end of the day they are just tunnels.


Crawling

In the most horrible mud you can imagine. There’s a circuit you have to do two laps of. I found that the second half of each circuit is slightly easier, as there’s more water on the ground and you can float along a little. Just keep plugging away. The faster you go the quicker it’s over.

There’s also a circuit of running in knee deep water, which you also do twice. Watch out for the first section, the mud under the surface is about 2 feet deep!


Hare and Hounds

After the endurance course is the Hare and Hounds. This is a one mile race, chasing a member of the training team. The CSgt followed along behind us, and anyone who was overtaken would be off the course. This is where I wished I was a faster runner, as I watched most of the course disappear into the distance. I wouldn’t hold out much hope of catching the member of the training team either. Quote from CSgt to strongest lad on the course: “GoldenBollocks, if you catch him, I will personally buy you a KitKat”. What man makes an offer like that if he thinks there’s a chance of losing a KitKat?

I very nearly pulled out at this point, as my left hip joint felt like someone had taken an electric drill to the insides. However, when CSgt said “are you sure?” I suddenly realised what a dumbass decision it would be to quit. I could have coped (just) with giving everything and failing, but to give up? How bad would I have felt on the train home? To anyone on a POC who thinks of giving up at any point, just imagine how you’re going to feel as the train leaves Lympstone.

The HH course is fairly simple. You all line up, CSgt says go, you run like the clappers. There are Marines running along side you who encourage you, and the terrain is just a basic woodland trail affair. No tunnels….

About halfway along the HH course, I suffered a slight mishap. According to the guy behind me, my left leg suddenly popped sideways out my hip and I fell over as if poleaxed. Suffice to say it hurt, a lot. However, the guy at the back of our course had keeled over with cramp, so the CSgt was delayed seeing to them. Giving muggings here an extra 20 seconds to jam his battered body back together and get himself moving again. Surprisingly I managed to catch everybody else up, pretty much, and even overtake one lad. I guess it’s true, most of it is in the mind, because at that point I would have crawled over broken glass and Tobasco to not finish last in that run. I don’t think you ever really know how much you can give until everything is demanded of you. Just wonder where I would have finished if I hadn’t had to pull myself together (literally).

At the end of the HH course you’re given a number, which you then have to give to the CSgt. Once you’ve finished you walk in a big circle waiting for the others. We got to tell jokes at this point, just to show we still had a sense of humour. First prize: a fish swims into a wall. “Dam”. Sigh.


Final Run

A couple of people who had done POC before had failed at this point. I don’t know why, but I seemed to find it easy enough to cope with, at least CV wise. It’s three miles, but at a fairly steady jog, and the one hill that’s there is marched up rather than run up. I’m not saying it’s easy, especially after everything that’s already been done, but it’s not as bad as I thought. I think this plays to the strengths of people like me, who can run for a long time, just not particularly quickly. I could have done another mile or so by the end without too much CV trouble. Physically was another matter. Besides muscle pain etc (nasty but bearable at least until the next day), one of my boots came undone (my own fault I know) and my foot was slamming into the front of the boot with every step. But as it hurt no matter what speed I moved my legs, I was able to keep going. I think five of us finished as a main group, and the remaining three were spread out behind. Again, points were awarded for where you finish. The ninth guy (the one who’d cramped up during HH) was eventually picked up and put in the rescue wagon, as he was essentially running 100 yards, cramping up and falling over, running 100 yards…. He passed though, as he basically told the training team he was going to finish if he had to ruddy well crawl every step of the ruddy way. I think that impressed them.

Once we’d all finished (having passed that famous sign), we had a quick cool down, before the CSgt took our final scores for the run back. Then we had to hare (and hound) off to get changed for the discussion exercise. Not only do you have to get yourself cleaned up, you also have to clean up your kit, so we found the laundrette and washed everything there. For the record, it’s £1.20 for a wash, and 50p for the powder, and you can just about fit 3 sets of kit into a machine. I think the reason woodbury common is gradually changing is because huge chunks of it are being carried back into lympstone attached to POC candidates.

Getting my boots off before I got cleaned up, I found that all the skin had come off both heels in chunks about 1.5 by 3 inches, and my big toenail on one foot was coming away from the toe due to the size of the blister underneath (it actually finally fell off this weekend, I’m thinking of getting it mounted as a souvenir of POC). Foot maintenance is such a good idea with hindsight.

So that’s it for the Endurance Course. Just remember, it does have an end, and as the CSgt said:

“We won’t kill you, or get you pregnant!”


Discussion Exercise

Apart from the welcome joy of sitting down rather than running, there was also tea and stickies at this point, which I think everybody needed. The Captain gave us three topics to discuss, moving on as each topic got exhausted

1)(Can’t quite remember this one, but something along the lines of ‘Can a country the size of America be a good influence on the world?’)

2)Is Iran justified in seeking Nuclear energy?

3)Should sex offenders be allowed to teach in schools?

Make sure you speak, make sure you make sense, make sure you don’t talk over the top of other people. As long as you produce reasonable opinions and your prepared to justify them, you shouldn’t have any trouble. Just don’t clam up, or fall asleep…..


Brown Tuesday. The longest it could have been is 24 hours, yet it felt like a week at times. Just remember, you’re there because you WANT TO BE. If being a Royal Marine Officer was easy, everybody would do it. So head down and dig in.

I’ll go over the last day (swim test etc) in my next post. Apologies for keeping everybody waiting.

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#7 Post by Deadhead » Fri 21 Apr, 2006 2:30 pm

Last section. Thank you for your patience. Feel free to ask any questions you like, I'll give the best answers I can.


Wednesday

After an evening spent having a couple of pints, shambling around like a cripple and tending to my poor battered feet, we got up for breakfast at 6:45. The atmosphere was a lot better now, for obvious reasons. After scran we returned our (clean and dry-ish) kit to the stores. Amusingly every single person groaned as they bent down to pick up their kit, and groaned as they straightened up. Another highlight was the sight of a POC attempting to take their marching step from my pathetic attempts to hobble. Good job the we only had a swim test left, as I don’t think I could have run more than 100 yards without something falling off. Once we’d returned our kit it was off to the pool for the swimtest. We did consider all buying matching “gayboy speedo’s” (CSgt’s words, not mine), but couldn’t afford it. Shame really, as the look on the CSgt’s face would have been worth it.


Swim Test

According to the CSgt, although you aren’t assessed on this section of the course, they do watch how you perform. So if you’re on a bit of a ‘sticky wicket’ it could tip the balance. Take it seriously.

Once we got to the pool, we had a warm up, which was just two lengths front crawl, two lengths breast stroke. No problems, actually helped loosen up the muscles that were stiff from yesterday. Then there was the main part of the swim test. Wearing overalls, 5lbs of webbing and a dummy rifle, jump off the 3 metre board, swim 25m (12.5m one way, swim round 180 degrees, 12.5m back). Pass the rifle and the webbing over to the PTI, the tread water for 3 minutes. Pretty easy, especially compared to Brown Tuesday. Again, no one had any problems.

After the swim test we had three confidence tests. Now, I can’t dive, I just didn’t get round to learning how when I was a kid. If you’re going for POC and you can’t dive, I suggest you learn, or at least practise a bit, as the confidence test all involve diving. I learned as I went along :)

First up is a dive from the side of the pool, which is easy, even if you can’t dive. Just through yourself out and you’ll be OK. Next up is a dive from the three metre board. OF course, when you’re looking down, it’s not three metres, it’s closer to five, as your eyes are higher up. The longer I thought about this the worse it was going to be, so I just went for it. I figured as long as I kept my hands at the front and went head first, I couldn’t screw up too badly, which proved to be the case. I just walked up to the edge and went straight off. Everybody else did a proper dive, with an element of grace to it. I just went straight down into the water! But the test is about bottle, not artistic merit, so it wasn’t a problem.

The last test is apparently also used during SB selection. Stand on the top of the diving board, back to the water. Clamp your arms to your sides, grip onto your shorts with your hands, tilt your head backwards, and fall backwards into the water. Your legs have to remain straight, you can’t push off with your feet, or you’ll be made to do it again. If you tilt your head right back then you naturally pivot round so that you drop head first and is doesn’t hurt. I have to admit I nearly fluffed this, before realising that’s I’d spent a large chunk of the previous day falling over, so once more shouldn’t be a problem…..

Everybody managed the test without too much trouble, after which it was out of the pool, get changed and head off for our final interviews. There was a fair amount of nerves, as you can imagine, although it turned out that everybody who had made it to the end had passed. You get called one at a time by the Captain running POC, who gives you the result (Him: ”I’m pleased to tell you you’ve passed” Me: “Really?” I thought I’d failed due to my firemans carry and the fact that I was near the back during all of the endurance course. Apparently the fact that I’d finished in the front group on the run back had really impressed them, as they thought I wasn’t going to make it). After you’ve been told your result, you then get a separate phys review from the CSgt (mine basically boiled down to “you’ve got weak legs. Get running up and down hills with some weight”). After that it’s pretty much over. One final meal (the most relaxed since we arrived, for obvious reasons), clean up the accommodation (tip: after the endurance course take all your kit off in the shower area so you don’t traipse mud everywhere), and off to the train. Endex. I got a call giving me my AIB date when I was sitting on the platform at Exeter.

I guess that pretty much wraps it up. I was thinking about how to sum up the whole experience, and I think it boils down to this. Nothing you can do will properly prepare you for POC. Nothing can prepare you for hitting rock bottom and having literally nothing left to give. Although the course is physically demanding, I think the main point of it isn’t to see how fit you are (although obviously that matters). It’s to see if you’ve got the mental resilience to push yourself on, no matter what. You can be the fittest person in the world, but if you can’t force yourself to keep going when your at your limits, you will fail. What’s between your ears and in your spirit matters just as much, if not more, than the number of press ups you can do and the number of miles you can run. 99.99% need not apply.

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#8 Post by intro2pete » Fri 21 Apr, 2006 7:01 pm

Excellent stuff, endlessley helpful.

Just one question - what DID you wear for the swimming? I'm guessing bermuda's also not a good choice..... :wink:

Good luck with AIB.

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#9 Post by proffered » Fri 21 Apr, 2006 7:20 pm

Well done

When is your AIB? It is a challenge from a different perspective - I have never and will never do a RM POC - but AIB is still quite daunting (so I hear from some of my green colleagues). To be honest, the two most difficult parts are the practical exercises and the discussion exercise - they assess who/what you already are, and so you can't prepare for them. You'll eat the MSFT, and the service knowledge test should be somewhat tailored to RM.

Keep us all informed of your progress, I'm sure soon you'll be in an Officer's Mess, or better still a Wardroom, reminiscing about this!

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#10 Post by GGHT » Fri 21 Apr, 2006 7:34 pm

intro2pete wrote:Excellent stuff, endlessley helpful.

Just one question - what DID you wear for the swimming? I'm guessing bermuda's also not a good choice..... :wink:

Good luck with AIB.
Go with the knee length flower print Hawaiians mate!

Cracking account mate, best one on here I reckon.

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#11 Post by Deadhead » Mon 24 Apr, 2006 1:10 pm

Everyone just wore normal swimming shorts. To be honest, I had my mind on other things. I'd stuck plasters over the holes in my feet, and about halfway through a length, realised they were coming off in the pool. I could just imagine the rollicking I'd get if the CSgt had seen mangy plasters floating in the pool, so I had to try and get the damn things into my pockets whilst swimming at the same time.


AIB date is week tomorrow. Getting a little nervous, to put it mildly. I'll do a diary if I can.

Just as a little epilogue, I'd advise booking yourself for a Doctors appointment the first chance you have after POC. I had severe swelling in both knees and one hip joint. According to the Dr, he wasn't quite sure what had happened to the hip, not having an MRI scanner etc etc, but it looked like I'd massively traumatised all the membranes surrounding the leg-thigh joint. So it was anti inflammatories and no impact exercise for two weeks. If I'd tried to run I may well have really injured myself.

As another nice aside, the day after POC (my 25th birthday too), I bimbled downstairs to answer the door to the postie in shorts and my POC T-shirt. Postie takes one look, says "passed?" "Yep" postie sticks his hand out "Well f@#k done mate". Turns out my postie back home is ex-RM!

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re.

#12 Post by scrat15 » Tue 25 Apr, 2006 12:01 am

Thanks Deadhead, that was really useful and it's reassuring to read something that up to date. My POC is on the 5th of June and I am having a pre-POC brief this Thursday. Could I ask you - Should I wear a suit to the pre-POC brief? Will I be tested in any way? What are the clothes you wear in the gym fitness assessment @ POC (with the press-ups etc.)?
I have never done a bleep-test before, will I be ok with that?
Also, for the lecturette, although I don't like to reveal this too much to military personnel, I was never part of the Cadets and have never been in any position of leadership that I can remember, apart from my directing of an indie film recently (www.plankfilms.com - the film should be up soon). Do you think I could get by on such limited evidence of leadership? Is the 3 minute talk just a show-case of all the Officer-like things you have done in your life?

I'm sorry that I have droned on with the questions but if you or anyone else in the know could answer them I'll be as happy as Sonne's bunny!

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#13 Post by Deadhead » Tue 25 Apr, 2006 9:52 am

Hi Scrat. No worries about asking mate, that's what the forum is for. In order:

1)Yes, you should wear a suit. I've worn a suit for all contact with my AFCO. Except my POC brief, as that was done over the phone. It's more a chance for you to ask questions and for the AFCO to make sure you a)know what to expect, b)have all your paperwork sorted out. I don't think you're tested in anyway.

2)In the RMFA you wear your own shorts and trainers, plus a POC Tshirt you get given at the start. You take the shirt off for pressups so they can check you're getting chest to knuckle.

3)I have no idea if you'll be OK with the bleep test. If you've trained, yes. If you haven't, no. Providing you've been running regularly, I don't see why not.

4)The lecturette is about you. You can talk about whatever parts of your life you like (though I wouldn't discuss losing your virginity). By the time you've gone through 'my name is, I am so old, I went to University here, I like running' you've used up a lot of time anyway. Just make sure it's 3 minutes, and practise it before you go.

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#14 Post by themattmeister » Tue 25 Apr, 2006 6:52 pm

dwarfy wrote:
hc00 wrote:Only one minute..?
well yeah, thats twice as long as the actual event. :lol:
Not including foreplay it isn't I'll have you know. :D

Anyway...

What's the situation with sports drinks Deadhead? The problem is I sweat like Gary Glitter on a school bus and I think some electrolytes throughout the course could be the difference between pass or fail. Maybe a cheeky buzz drink before bottom field would be highly beneficial.

Cheers Mate.

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#15 Post by Deadhead » Wed 26 Apr, 2006 9:17 am

We were specifically told water only in the water bottles we carry around the course. No sports drinks. To be honest, you don't have time to work out which bottle is yours, you grab whichever is nearest. Also, they refill them from a jerry can every so often, so you'd end up with diluted lucozade anyway. So I wouldn't chance it on course. Nothing to stop you taking a six pack of powerade (or whatever) along with you and drinking them when you have a chance. You'd definately be able to drink before the endurance course, as you have to get changed anyway.

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