22 NAVY NEWS, MARCH 2009
How the men of RMR
THERE are some jobs
Behind that bald statement is
which demand a lot of
a subtle and powerful piece of
you, writes Mike Gray.
military alchemy that converts
part-time soldiers seamlessly
Nursing, for example.
into front-line Royal Marines
Firefighting. Teaching. commandos and back again.
People who make a success of And do not think for a moment
those careers and supporting a that part-time = second-rate. There
home life – family, friends, that is no short-cut to the green beret.
sort of thing – deserve respect. “Reservists do exactly the same
Now throw in a third dimension tests as regular Royal Marines,”
– the little matter of a green beret. said Lt Col Herring.
Juggle that as well, and that is “They earn the green beret and
impressive, as Lt Col John Herring it stands for exactly the same
happily admits. thing.”
Lt Col Herring is the The intakes tend to be pretty
Commanding Officer of Royal eclectic. A recent group of 35
Marines Reserve Bristol, and he included two ex-Army, two with
sums up his men in simple terms. Masters degrees, 14 graduates and
“As a regular Royal Marine I six undergraduates with an average
think that these people are really age of 25 – “a very, very high
quite special in that they are able calibre,” according to the CO.
to take upwards of a year out of RMR Bristol comprises Bristol
their working lives and homes to (where the HQ is located) and
do this. four detachments – Cardiff, Poole,
“I do not know how they do it.” Plymouth and Lympstone – each
Most aspects of Bristol RMR with an OC.
can be reduced to simple facts and The fact that the unit is scattered
statements.● The legend that is L/Cpl ‘Fletch’ Fletcher posing next to a tracked vehicle. Wounded in Afghanistan, he is set upon some payback across the south west does not
For example, as Lt Col Herring help in terms of team-building,
says, the role of the unit is “to but the use of whole-unit training
‘The best job I have ever done...’
produce properly-trained marines serials, conference calls and the
ready to be integrated into like ensures that there is a sense of
the regular fighting units of 3 belonging in the detachments.
Commando Brigade.” And belonging is one of the key
concepts if the all-for-one spirit is
YOU might think that Cpl Robert under seven months in total. It’s
to be nurtured.
‘Coops’ Cooper would be in a bit something I wanted to do.
All the detachments have a
of a cleft stick. “I love nursing but I’m 37. I
Holding Troop which allows
On the one hand, he is a staff wish I was 27 and had done this
(unpaid) recruits to train, build
nurse in the cardio-thorassic 10 or 15 years earlier.
fitness and feel part of the unit
department at Bristol Royal
before they formally join one of
Infirmary, caring for heart attack
“It is the best job I have
the biannual intakes.
victims and patients undergoing
“The moral component is
bypasses or valve replacements.
“I was lucky to be with a heavy
important,” said Lt Col Herring.
On the other he is a RM
weapons troop in Kajaki, and it
“They need to feel wanted by
Reservist skilled in handling was just incredible.”
their Royal Marines family – and
devastating weaponry, either a .5 Coops is adding another string
calibre heavy machine gun or an to his bow by taking specialist
‘Intelligent selection’ means
anti-tank missile. courses to qualify as a troop
taking people who really want
He has also been a night-club medic.
to be a marine, and ‘intelligent
bouncer, a martial arts instructor “Because I have got a BSc
employment’ means using them
and a personal bodyguard in (Hons) in health and RGN
for the tasks in which they trained,
his time, but there are common qualifications, I was allowed to
which should lead to “a lot of
threads to be seen. do BATLS (Battlefield Advanced
happy and fulfilled Reservists.”
“It’s all part of the same package. Trauma Life Support),” he said.
Training is split between two
You do not put on your green “Some of the Army and Navy
phases, both demanding high
beret, run around and just blow nurses I met out there were levels of energy, commitment and
things up – although, obviously, awesome. I came away learning a sheer grit.
we do do that sometimes,” said hell of a lot from them.” Phase I will take around six
Coops, a nurse for 14 years and a His aim is to qualify as a CMT months, with basic weekly training
reservist for half of that time. (Combat Medical Technician) – and weekend exercises at unit level
“But when you go into a a lower grade than his nursing culminating in a two-week course
country like Afghanistan you go career but more specialised. at the Commando Training Centre
to help that country. “So when I go out again I can at Lympstone.
“You are digging a country work as a heavy weapons operator Phase II takes perhaps
out of an incredibly dark part of and as a CMT,” said Coops. five months but even more
their history brought about by “I love my work in hospital commitment in terms of training,
an incredibly dark and repressive and with patients, but there is and again culminates in fearsome
regime.” something you do not get in a ● Cpl ‘Coops’ Cooper poses next to a WMIK Land Rover Commando tests at Lympstone,
Coops was struck by the CIMIC civilian environment which you after which the Reservist is
(CIvilian MIlitary Co-operation) get in a military environment. “I was sitting in a hole next to “We filmed a recent DVD in “He was putting these four guys awarded the coveted green beret.
element to operations in “Since I have been back I have a marine called Hodgy, a brilliant the hospital for the RMR, and the together; their ankles had been After that there is Phase
Afghanistan when he deployed in missed the camaraderie of the marine, sitting there as the place hospital used part of it in their HR shot through. III (continuation training),
2007-8. lads – you know when the s**t was shot away. He’s sitting there campaign.” “The bullets were smashing depending on a man’s specialist
“So it’s not just about going hits the fan those lads are going with a tab in his mouth laughing One image from the front-line round his head and he didn’t qualification, which includes field
to a foreign country, opening up to stand next to you, and that that and chatting away, and I thought sums up the work of military flinch once. firing, amphibious training and
with heavy weapons and blowing lad is a bootneck, which makes it ‘that’s cool...’ medics, as far as Coops is “The RN and Army doctors helicopter drills.
things apart – although my SQ even better. “My employer, my ward sister concerned. and medics were fantastic – they He is now a General Duties
happens to be heavy weapons,” “It’s been one of the most and other managers have been “Coming from a nursing put me to shame, and I have got marine – a rifleman – and Royal
said Coops. intense periods of my life – fantastic – the whole team are just background, there was a Navy a degree. Marines ethos has it that every
“I was out there for just exhilarating, exciting. fantastic. medic – Stretch – one of the most “Stretch is a regular but he was bootneck, no matter what bolt-on
awesome medics I have seen. awesome.” skills he has learned, remains at
● Don’t give up the day job...
Coops inspects the leg of a local
Same beret, different
L/CPL Matt Hunt is a station had then and today.” had got the skills you’d learned
manager in the Avon Fire and Besides practising their skills in and the hands God gave you,
Rescue Service, based in the centre the famous four seasons in one day and basic skills to keep you and
of Bristol, having been thwarted in – everything from snow to harsh your fellow bootnecks safe till you
his initial bid to join the Royals by sunlight – the Reservists also got could get out.
the Falklands effect. to see the iconic battlefields. “The temperature was 35-50
“I wanted to join the regular “To visit where the Corps was degrees, and we were carrying
Corps after I left school but they and see what they fought over was weights of up to 100lb.
were toppers at the time and were humbling. It was a surprise to me “It was good – it was a learning
not recruiting – they were really the amount of detritus there. There experience for me and develops
strong after the Falklands,” said was a cache of shovels, backpacks your skills brilliantly.
Matt, who joined the Reserves etc – almost as a testament to the “The Reserves is a fantastic
in 1985. people that went before.” opportunity for people to be
Over the past couple of years Belize also proved an exacting exposed to the military and also
Matt has tested himself in two location. have the ability to have a normal
very different scenarios – the “That again was a harsh and life as well.
Falklands in 2007, with around 60 telling environment, with some “If someone doesn’t want to
RMR colleagues, and as one of 30 horrendous living conditions – commit to a full-time career in the
Reservists exercising in the jungle spiders, snails, scorpions, fire ants, Services, but wants to get a green
with Fleet Protection Group RM howler monkeys, and certain plants beret, you can do both – it doesn’t
in Belize last year. you had to be very careful of. take any different a person.”
“It was an experience which “It was close to the Guatemalan Mne Pat Waldron is a veteran
was defining for me,” said Matt. border, in dense canopy, in terrain of the unit, having been a reservist
“The Falklands was the war of mapped a long time ago, using since late 1987.
my generation and shows the level maps and compasses. He has not deployed yet: sadly
of proficiency the Royal Marines “If something went wrong you for him, integration between the
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