Royal Marines selection and training
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Royal Marines recruit training is the longest basic modern infantry training programme of any Commonwealth, or 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.
All potential recruits take a psychometric test and are interviewed at the Armed Forces Careers Office (AFCO) to assess their suitability. A series of physical assessments are conducted including a sight test and medical examination. Then the Pre Joining Fitness Test: two 1.5-mile runs (2.4 km) on a treadmill at 2% incline, the first to be completed within 12 minutes 30 seconds, the second within 10 minutes, with 1 minute of rest in between.
Currently all Royal Marines recruits must be male and aged 16 to 32 (they must be in Recruit Training before their 33rd birthday). Due to the July 2016 lifting on the ban on women in Ground Close Combat roles, females will be permitted to join all British military infantry units, including the Royal Marines Commandos, by the end of 2018.
The final selection assessment for potential recruits is either the Potential Royal Marine Course (PRMC) for ratings candidates, or the Potential Officer Course (POC) and Admiralty Interview Board for officer candidates. PRMC and POC last three days and assess physical ability and intellectual capacity to undertake the recruit training. Potential Officers must be aged 18 to 25.
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 31 lb (14 kg) of Personal Load Carrying Equipment. Individual fieldcraft skills are also taught at this basic stage.
Foundation – 3 weeks
Individual Skills – 7 weeks
Advanced Skills – 5 weeks
Operations Of War – 10 weeks
Commando Phase – 6 weeks
Kings Squad – 1 week
Throughout basic training, recruits must undergo many exercises testing what they have learnt up to that point.
Early Knight – week 2
First Step – week 4
Quick Cover – week 5
Marshal Star – week 7
Hunters Moon – week 10
Baptist Walk – week 13
Baptist Run – week 14
First Base – week 16
Second Empire – week 18
Holdfast – week 20
Urban Warrior – week 21
Violent Entry – week 22
Field Firing exercise – weeks 26 & 27
Final exercise – weeks 29 & 30
Commando tests – week 31
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 which begins with a two-mile (3.22 km) run 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 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.
Non-Royal Marine volunteers for Commando training undertake the All Arms Commando Course. There is also a Reserve Commando Course run for members of the Royal Marines Reserve and Commando units of the Army Reserve.
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 Defence School of Electronic and Mechanical Engineering (DSEME) at MOD Lyneham, Wiltshire, Defence Helicopter Flying School (pilots/aircrew) or the Defence School 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.
- "Royal Marines Commando Training". Ministry of Defence. Archived from the original on 10 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-23.
- "What Does It Take To Be A Royal Marine? Royal Navy Jobs". Royalnavy.mod.uk. 2018-12-17. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
- "Ban on women in ground close combat roles lifted". GOV.UK. 2016-07-08. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
- Royal Marines Career Guide