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personal administration, marksmanship, basic fieldcraft and infantry tactics and the nuts and bolts of command, including the combat estimate and orders process, are taught and practised. After a period of leave and the gaining of an adventurous training qualification, the officer cadet moves to New College for the Intermediate and Senior Terms which build upon the foundation skills of the Junior Term. The Officer Cadet is given greater responsibilities and freedom of action in a broadened syllabus which includes a much greater emphasis on individual intellectual development and an expanded knowledge of the wider army and operations of war, including the Contemporary Operating Environment. This is achieved by a combination of external speakers, teaching by the academic departments, a battlefield study tour and increasingly demanding field exercises and DS-led instruction in the classroom.

From early on in the Junior Term through to the Senior Term, the Choice of Arm (COA) process occupies the Officer Cadet and DS. Cadets are exposed to the various Arms and Services through briefings and displays in the first 6 weeks and formally record an interest in two COA. Following an Expression of Interest Evening manned by DS and external Regimental representatives, the cadet confirms his choices. Thereafter, Regimental visits and careful counselling by DS, based on performance and suitability, hopefully ensure that the cadet is groomed for success at the Regimental Selection Boards during Term2. Following the interview boards, provided an offer is made, the officer cadet is able to make a choice between the two.

In addition to training cadet Platoons in the two main Colleges, permanent staff may be employed elsewhere in the Academy. Dettingen Company runs the Professionally Qualified Officer (PQO) short courses for the likes of military Chaplains and Doctors, the TA Commissioning Courses, the pre- briefing courses for the prospective cadets (PCCBC) and the CSgt Instructor Cadre. Lucknow Platoon, based in Old College and run by a Capt and three CSgts, looks after those officer cadets rehabilitating from injury and prepares them for a return to training without too much skill fade. For CSgts, a stint of between one and three terms is spent in the Skill at Arms Wing teaching marksmanship and range management in Barracks and supporting the Commissioning Course staff on field exercises as extra Platoon DS.

While you will not find recruiting in the job specification, attracting and nurturing potential MERCIAN officers to the Regimental Selection Board is a vital and time consuming additional activity at the Academy. The CSgt and Capt Instructors are the key enablers in this process; the Platoon DS are disproportionately influential over the

128 October 2009

impressionable Officer Cadet and, therefore, talented and charismatic individuals are needed for these appointments. The Regiment is allowed to commission only fifteen new officers a year to meet its manning requirements. The figure may not seem large but The Mercian Regiment is in competition with the rest of the Infantry for the right talent against a significant shortfall in numbers commissioning overall. We have missed our target by four officers over the last two years and the gap is felt by each Battalion; a CSgt can command a platoon, but he cannot fulfil all the secondary officer duties which help to make a Battalion tick.

So what it is like to be a member of the DS? There is no doubt that it is hard work with regular weekend commitments and approximately five weeks each term spent in the field on exercise. To be honest, during term-time it is not particularly family friendly although it is not the 14-week operational tour claimed by some. You have to be totally committed – there is no time for off days in front of the cadets. Conversely, the job satisfaction is immense as you watch and nurture your raw material into young officers fit for their first command. The Officer Cadets will be bright and fit and they will stretch you but there is little more satisfying than watching them march up the Old College steps on commissioning in the knowledge that you will have left an indelible impression on them. Every officer who has been through Sandhurst will remember their Platoon Colour Sergeant with enormous respect and affection. Unlike the realities of Battalion life with its inherently uncertain forecast of events, you know your programme down to the hour a year ahead; this includes three blocks of substantial leave at Christmas, Easter and Summer and two to three long weekends each term. A current Commissioning Course review should result in three proper long weekends each term, i.e. the weekend and an additional working day.

I am pitching now unashamedly at the SCBC-qualified Corporal, or suitably qualified Sergeant and their chain of command to give serious consideration to having a crack at the RMAS Assistant Instructor’s Cadre. The Cadre is run annually and needs to select thirty CSgt Instructors. Twenty two of the thirty five infantry candidates passed the 2008 Cadre (63% success rate) including two from the Prince of Wales’s Division, but none from our Regiment. However, RAMC, RLC and R SIGNALS each managed two and REME and AAC managed one apiece! The Cadre has 3 phases: the ASLS DTTT, the main cadre and a 4 day induction process for those selected. The main cadre runs for four weeks and assesses the following main activities:

• Physical Fitness – PFT, ACFT and the Cadets’ Endurance Competition.

• Instructional techniques – Drill, Rifle lessons, CBRN, Field craft and Tactics.

• Estimate and Orders Process – Cadets’ Ex Eagle Strike and PRACTAC.

• Endurance/Navigation/Command Tasks – Complete Cadets’ Ex Long Reach.

By dint of successfully completing the Cadre you will find yourself in the top 2% of SNCOs in the Army. Irrespective of being top/middle/ bottom third of the CSgt Instructors here you are viewed as part of the “elite” who are likely to fast track to WO1 (RSM) and Late Entry Commissioning ahead of the majority of your peers. If you are thinking of “going for it”, I recommend that you request a visit to the Academy hosted by one of the staff here. In early consultation with your chain of command, ensure that you get the requisite course qualifications (PSBC, AADB, CBRN & BCDT) and do not underestimate the time required to accrue them in the busy field army.

For WO2s with previous experience as a CSgt Instructor at the Academy, there is the occasional opportunity to return as a CSM. There are also opportunities for SNCOs to be employed in CQMS appointments and as instructors in the Signals Wing. There is a rôle for Late Entry Officers at RMAS as well. Two of the Assistant Chief Instructors in Old and New College are regularly filled by LE Capts. The Late Entry Officer Course (LEOC) run for newly-commissioned WO1s has five LE Majors on the instructional staff.

Before CSgt Cooke and CSgt W M Spiers- King have the chance to give their perspectives on their time as CSgt Instructors at the Academy, I will conclude with the following points:

• RMAS offers a challenging and rewarding break from Regimental Duty and the OCP.

• We need inspirational and highly professional instructors to recruit and train our future MERCIAN officers.

• It is a career-enhancing, prestigious posting.

• The Academy ethos and way of doing business reminds you of the fundamentals of soldiering, leadership, values and standards and, in some cases, “stuff” which we no longer have time to do properly in the field army but should strive to emulate when we are in barracks.

The Mercian Eagle

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