After a hard half term at school Exercise ‘October Optimist’ was a great escape for fifty of our cadets. Amherst, Grammar, and High School cadets from all three Services joined together at Quorn playing fields along with eight Senior Non Commissioned Officers. Over the two days the cadets took part in activities such as first aid, CQB (close quarter battle), air rifle shooting, archery, cooking, a navigation exercise, bushcraft skills, and more.
Due to the proximity of the camp to Halloween, the main event of the two days was a night patrol to retrieve the only known sample of an experimental virus ‘COVID-20’ in a large crate. However, COVID-20 had a reanimating effect, and turned all of our Senior NCO’s into Zombies! The patrol consisted of the cadets utilising the skills they had learned earlier that day, such as first aid, patrolling and movement. The event culminated with the attack upon the cadets by the zombified NCOS, and there even being an all out sprint with the crate of ‘COVID-20’ to the safety of Major Murphy. It was so scary that even our resident ex-Marine, Sergeant Hall, was seen skulking away sheepishly to the toilets, and suspiciously emerging some five minutes later wearing a new pair of trousers. After the ‘zombie lane’ the cadets returned to base for marshmallows around the fire. After this they put up their bashas (military-speak for a basic camouflaged shelter). They then cooked their MOD ration packs, supplemented by endless supplies of the best chicken this side of Nando’s courtesy of Lt Lewis and his team of Y12 helpers, cooked in an improvised earth oven. It was a windy and rough night for the cadets, but they kept their morale high and their chins up to get through to morning extremely well, and far exceeded the Staff and NCOs’ expectations.
The second day arrived early, with an 0700 start for all, and once everybody had put their bashas away and had some hot food, the activities for the day commenced. These built upon the activities learned the previous day. In CQB, the cadets learnt how to manoeuvre and perform drills in a combat lane, responding to targets popping up with rapid paintball fire. Air rifle training involved ‘Target Sprint’, where the cadets had two minutes to run around the Pavilion and shoot 10 rounds with the air rifle, leading to different strategies of controlling breathing, and the top score being an amazing grouping of only 25mm. There was also a huge disappointment amidst the excitement of Target Sprint, where one of our SNCO’s blundered what would have been a 16mm grouping with the final shot, leading to a measly 36mm grouping – it was so disappointing that Major Murphy said ‘I ought to kick you out for that’. There was a navigation exercise, which consisted of a hike around the Charnwood countryside. The archery stand was another highlight, and was thoroughly enjoyed by all the cadets, with everyone’s competitive sides coming out in full force.
In the afternoon the ‘Dream Team’, the group of Senior NCOS including the esteemed Febreeze, Romeo and Juliet, Big Rosh (LSF’s resident DJ), Daddy Draco, Chief, tiny4arms and Will-I-Aren’t did an extra run of the CQB, with the expertise that they have earned throughout their years in CCF becoming evident in their patrols. It has been reported that a certain unnamed NCO/RSM/future Marine attacked the targets with such ferocity Major Ward had to physically restrain them in the interest of preserving the safety of local residents. Mr Byrne paid us a visit, and looked rather dashing in a pair of wellington boots and coordinated fleece. He complimented the attitudes of all of the cadets, and marvelled after inspecting the day’s activities that he had ‘never seen anything quite like it’.
After the mini-camp was concluded, prizes (in the form of CCF branded sporks) were given out, and the Senior NCOs interviewed some of the cadets. The Year 10s said that their favourite activity was ‘definitely the zombie patrol’, with one of them even saying as it was taking place ‘Miss I don’t feel well please can I go home’ amidst the chaos of the NCOs chasing them. The archery also proved to be popular with many, an ecstatic Year 11 boy said that he ‘got a perfect six bullseyes, well not bullseyes but still in the yellow’. The Year 12 girls found the CQB lane the most exciting, with one remarking that ‘I didn’t realise there would actually be targets we could shoot’, and that ‘I have never felt so alive.’ The Year 12 boys unanimously voted that the air rifle was the best, and that they enjoyed it because ‘I have to prove I’m the best shot’, which once again led Major Murphy to remark upon the disappointment which one NCO created earlier on. The NCOs took a mixed approach to their favourite activities, with it being a close contest between the archery, air rifle, CQB and zombie patrol. We think the highlight for Major Murphy was ‘chicken’, but it was hard to tell as he had his mouth full.
Well done and a huge congratulations to everybody who attended and made such a wonderful two days in this rather unsettled year. Special thanks go to the team of Staff (Miss Cartwright, Mrs Grest, Sgt Hall, Capt Jackson, Lt Lewis, Maj Murphy, Maj Ward, and Dr Waters) who ran the event brilliantly and devised a thoroughly enjoyable mini camp for everybody, we all really appreciate some normality being brought to us in these trying times.
Written by the Senior NCOs