Royal Marines selection and training
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Royal Marines recruit training is the longest basic modern infantry training programme of any North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) combat troops. The Royal Marines are the only part of the British Armed Forces where officers and other ranks are trained at the same location, the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM) at Lympstone, Devon. Much of the basic training is carried out on the rugged terrain of Dartmoor and Woodbury Common with a significant proportion taking place at night.
Initially all potential recruits are required to attend a series of entrance/aptitude tests and interviews at the Armed Forces Careers office (AFCO) to assess the suitability of all applicants. A series of physical assessments are also conducted including a hearing test, sight test and drug test in the form of a urine sample. As well as two 1.5-mile runs (2.4 km) the first to be completed within 12 minutes 30 seconds with a 1-minute break before another 1.5-mile run to be completed at best effort but under 10 minutes 30 seconds, both set at a 2-degree incline on a running machine. For Potential Officers the times are 12 minutes 30 seconds and 10 minutes 00 seconds respectively. Then a gym test: press-ups in 2 mins (min target: 60) with 2 mins rest, sit-ups in 2 mins (min target: 80) 2 mins rest, pull-ups as many as possible without letting go (min target: 6). There's also a bleep test and assault course.
Then, before beginning Royal Marines recruit training the potential recruit must attend a Potential Royal Marine Course (PRMC) or Potential Officer Course (POC) held at CTCRM. PRMC lasts three days and assesses physical ability and intellectual capacity to undertake the recruit training. Officer candidates must also undertake the Admiralty Interview Board.
Officers and Marines undergo the same training up to the commando tests, thereafter Marines go on to employment in a rifle company while Officers continue training. Officer candidates are required to meet higher standards in the Commando tests.
The first weeks of training are spent learning basic skills that will be used later. This includes much time spent on the parade ground and on the rifle ranges. The long history of the Royal Marines is also highlighted through a visit to the Royal Marines Museum in Southsea, Hampshire. Physical training at this stage emphasizes all-round physical strength, endurance and flexibility in order to develop the muscles necessary to carry the heavy equipment a marine will use in an operational unit. Key milestones include a gym passout at week 9 (not carried out with fighting order), a battle swimming test, and learning to do a "regain" (i.e. climb back onto a rope suspended over a water tank). Most of these tests are completed wearing fighting order of 32 lb (14.5 kg) of Personal Load Carrying Equipment. Individual fieldcraft skills are also taught at this basic stage.
The Commando course
The culmination of training is the Commando course. Following the Royal Marines taking on responsibility for the Commando role with the disbandment of the Army Commandos at the end of World War II, all Royal Marines, except those in the Royal Marines Band Service, complete the Commando course as part of their training (see below). Key aspects of the course include climbing and ropework techniques, patrolling and amphibious warfare operations.
This intense phase ends with a series of tests which have remained virtually unchanged since World War II. Again, these tests are done in full fighting order of 32 lb (14.5 kg) of equipment.
The Commando tests are taken on consecutive days and all four tests must be successfully completed within a seven-day period; they include;
- A nine mile (14.5 km) speed march, carrying full fighting order, to be completed in 90 minutes; the pace is thus 10 minutes per mile (9.6 km/h or 6 mph).
- The Endurance course is a six-mile (9.65 km) course across rough moorland and woodland terrain at Woodbury Common near Lympstone, which includes tunnels, pipes, wading pools, and an underwater culvert. The course ends with a four-mile (6 km) run back to CTCRM. Followed by a marksmanship test, where the recruit must hit 6 out of 10 shots at a 25m target simulating 200 m. To be completed in 73 minutes (71 minutes for Royal Marine officers). Originally 72 minutes, these times were recently increased by one minute as the route of the course was altered.
- The Tarzan Assault Course. This is an assault course combined with an aerial confidence test. It starts with a death slide (now known as the Commando Slide) and ends with a rope climb up a thirty foot near-vertical wall. It must be completed with full fighting order in 13 minutes, 12 minutes for officers. The Potential Officers Course also includes confidence tests from the Tarzan Assault Course, although not with equipment.
- The 30 miler. This is a 30-mile (48-km) march across upland Dartmoor, wearing full fighting order, and additional safety equipment carried by the recruit in a daysack. It must be completed in eight hours for recruits and seven hours for Royal Marine officers, who must also navigate the route themselves, rather than following a DS (a trained Royal Marine) with the rest of a syndicate and carry their own equipment.
After the 30-mile (48 km) march, any who failed any of the tests may attempt to retake them up until the seven-day window expires. If a recruit fails two or more of the tests, however, it is unlikely that a chance to re-attempt them will be offered.
Normally the seven- to eight-day schedule for the Commando Tests is as follows:
- Saturday - Endurance Course
- Sunday - Rest
- Monday - Nine Mile Speed March
- Tuesday - Tarzan Assault Course
- Wednesday - 30 Miler
- Thursday - Failed test re-runs
- Friday - Failed test re-runs
- Saturday - 30 Miler re-run if required
Completing the Commando course successfully entitles the recruit or officer to wear the green beret but does not mean that the Royal Marine has finished his training. That decision will be made by the troop or batch training team and will depend on the recruit's or young officer's overall performance. Furthermore, officer training still consists of many more months.
Training to be a Royal Marine takes 32 weeks. The last week is spent mainly on administration and preparing for the pass out parade. Recruits in their final week of training are known as the King's Squad and have their own section of the recruits' galley at Lympstone.
After basic and commando training, a Royal Marine Commando will normally join a unit of 3 Commando Brigade. There are four Royal Marines Commando infantry units in the Brigade: 40 Commando located at Norton Manor Camp near Taunton in Somerset; 42 Commando at Bickleigh Barracks, near Plymouth, Devon; 43 Commando FPGRM at HMNB Clyde near Glasgow; and 45 Commando at RM Condor, Arbroath on the coast of Angus.
Upon completion of training, Royal Marine recruits spend a period of time as a General Duties Rifleman. They are assigned to one of the three Commando battalions or a Fleet Standby Riﬂe Troop on board a Royal Navy ship for up to two years before being sent for specialist training.
Commandos may then go on to undertake specialist training in a variety of skills:
- Recruit Specialisations
- Assault Engineer
- Armoured Support Group (Viking)
- Combat Intelligence
- Communications Technician
- Drill Instructor
- Heavy Weapons – Air Defence
- Heavy Weapons – Anti-Tank
- Heavy Weapons – Mortars
- Information Systems
- Landing Craft Coxswain
- Medical Assistant
- Military Police
- Mountain Leader
- Platoon Weapons Instructor
- Physical Training Instructor (PTI)
- Reconnaissance Operator
- Special Forces Communicator
- Swimmer Canoeist
- Stores Accountant
- Telecommunications Technician (Tels Tech)
- Vehicle Mechanic (VM)
- Yeoman of Signals
- Officer specialisations
- Heavy Weapons Officer
- Intelligence Officer
- Landing Craft Officer
- Mountain Leader
- Physical Training and Sports Officer
- Signals Officer
- Special Boat Service Officer
- Staff Officer
- Weapons Training Officer
- Platoon Weapons
Training for these specialisations may be undertaken at CTCRM or in a tri-service training centre, such as the Defence School of Transport at Leconfield, The School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (SEME) based at Bordon, Defence Helicopter Flying School (pilots/aircrew) or the Defence College of Policing and Guarding.
Some marines are trained in military parachuting to allow flexibility of insertion methods for all force elements. Marines complete this training at RAF Brize Norton but are not required to undergo Pre-Parachute Selection Course (P-Company) training due to the arduous nature of the commando course they have already completed.