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weapon handling course. It’s a motley crew, in terms marksmanship

– Christian, though

through no fault of their own. Take Lt Cdr Johanna for

example: a

logistics officer, she has had a fairly predictable career path to date, most recently with the Joint Supply Chain at Abbey Wood. Not much call for a rifle in

those parts, nor on previous ships such as HMS Endurance. But come November, Lt Cdr

Christian joins 104 Logistic Support Brigade at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, where competence with a rifle is all together a more useful skill. “Camp Bastion and 104 Logs

will be out of my comfort zone,” Lt Cdr Christian admitted. “The last time I shot a rifle

was in 1992, and the last time I handled one was in 2001, on Officer of the Day duties. “You had to learn how to do

the weapon handovers, but not to shoot it. “I have been at sea at


pointy end, but not been required to shoot while at sea – I had other things to do, like damage control.”

armed service it was entirely understandable

arms should be taught

The officer said as an that

Navy – but if you are never likely to have to use a rifle in anger there is little point wasting time and money training with it. Not all has faded in the mist

of time, however. “It has been good training so

far, and the weapon handling drill came back quicker than I thought it would,” said Lt Cdr Christian. “The course is excellent, very

skill-at- in the





could get – it is exactly the opposite, really.” PO Kev Moran, part of

in recent weeks the

training team, said the course caters for “all shapes, sizes and standards”;

they have had ABs fresh out of Raleigh to a senior captain. Some even have a number of

Herricks under their belts. “We have had the old-timers

by the fourth day, comfortable with the body armour, but expected that

the subsequent days. “I

support headquarters, and I am making the assumption I will not be at the really sharp end, on patrols and convoys, so the real combat techniques I would hope I will not get to use,” she said. “But even wearing the kit

makes you appreciate what we are getting into. “Shooting is not something I

more comfortable joining my Army

have worn the kit and fired the weapon.” Another

new ground is NA(SE) Brett Townsley, who is going to Camp Bastion as a prison handler. “For me this is way out of


my comfort zone – I haven’t touched a rifle for five years, since basic training,” said the survival equipment specialist. NA Townsley is currently at

good for me,” he said. “I wasn’t overly

more colleagues because

am very good at – I am not sub- optimal, but I am not going to win any awards. “But if nothing else I will feel

I breaking am joining

to ease through a


well-paced – it assumes you need to start with the basics, which is great.” She admitted that she was not,

saying ‘why have I got to do this? I have already been to Herrick’,” said PO Moran. “But 99 per cent of

the training.” The test


we have here have a relaxed attitude – all rates and ranks. “They are very receptive to

is the Annual

Combat Marksmanship Test (BCC – basic close combat), the theatre entry-level benchmark, though the standard is now being applied across the Navy. In the past RN shooters were

trained over 100 metres, but now they go out to 300 metres – a more practical skill as any shooting from a modern warship is just as likely to be over longer distances across water as short range shore-side. The two-week course starts

with basics of breaking down and reassembling the SA80 rifle, re-learning its characteristics and becoming confident with the equipment. Trainees wear helmets, body armour and webbing at


times, preparing them for long shifts in the kit in theatre. They also learn to zero the

sight, and to accommodate different shooting positions. By the end, shooters will have

RAF Cottesmore with the Naval Harriers, but he deploys to Afghanistan later this month. “This course has been really

weeks here I should be able to handle it with no problem at all. “My family expect me to know

with the weapon at all when I found I was going out. “After the first shoot I am far confident, and after two

what to do with a rifle because I’m military, but depending on your branch you may never get to look at a rifle – my branch certainly don’t.” “This is as far away from


proved their capability over different ranges using different techniques – they must pass each stage before progressing. The course

also includes

some night-firing. WO1 Bob Bainbridge, in

charge of the course, said: “I am a WO drill specialist. “I do not like using them in

their secondary role – I prefer to see them presented on a parade ground. “What we have here is a

perishable skill. “They may not have touched a

weapon for years – particularly officers with their pistols. “Ratings

all have

experience with a rifle, but the officers may never have trained


with rifles. “You

get your surgeon

commander, green-lidded but who hasn’t used the skills for a long time. “Now he is getting deployed

as a consultant, he is dusting off the green lid, but the techniques have changed.” One such example is firing a

rifle while wearing body armour. The traditional firing position

was side-on, but the main armour plates are across the chest, so a head-on stance is safer. “You will end up firing about

600 rounds, if you pass first time, said WO Bainbridge. “We get very few failures.

When people struggle we have the staff and capability to do one-to-one,” he said. “We have a six-strong staff,

a mix of green and blue, and some of the Royal Marines have had recent operational tours.” Rifle training is carried out

on a number of ranges – apart from Tipner, they can also use Moody’s Down and Chilcomb at Winchester, or Longmoor, depending on availability. Most trainees go straight from

weapon training to the Mounting Cell at HMS Nelson to tackle the tactical side and particular in-theatre requirements. Such training might finally

ring down the curtain on the old quips about sailors with guns...

● (Above) Queen’s Medal winner Lt Dave Anderson is carried aloft; (below) Queen’s Medal shooting on the Century Range at Bisley; (main picture) Trainees on the Tipner range in Portsmouth

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