Read Part Two HERE

We set off out of the camp gate in Brunei in three ranks at a fairly brisk pace, marching along a dusty track. It was early, so it wasn’t unbearably hot and damp yet. Still, we weren’t in the trees proper yet, and it was already humid. I could hear the waves crashing on the beach, but I couldn’t see the water yet. Suddenly without warning, the pace picked up on the march with such ferocity that, in an instant, those at the back were a huge distance from the frontrunners. Unfortunately for me, I was amongst those looking forward at the disappearing pack, now down to just the lone drill sergeant and a couple of blokes who must have been right on his shoulder.

He was quite literally running a steady pace faster than I could sprint at my fastest. From my starting position at the rear, I had no chance. I set my pace as fast as I could and just followed the footsteps in the deep sand. My calves felt like they were going to explode, each step pumping them up a little more. I was not the only one so far back; there were at least 20 of us severely behind. There were drill sergeants around us, but we didn’t get a word from them. Back in the Green Army, people would have been yelling at you to keep up. Here, no one said a word. I could see the squad forming up in the distance and slowing down a little.

I tried to increase my pace to get there. As I got there, the drill sergeants were beginning to get people lined up and ready for some exercises. Sure enough, we went straight into a session of sprints and carries, push-ups and sit-ups. The sand was sticking to my sweating body and every crack I had was filling up. My training shoes were full of sand and I could feel it through my socks and between my toes. We were formed up in three ranks again, and as before, the drill sergeant took off like a gazelle with three lions up its arse.

All I could do was run for dear life. I was actually running like I was being chased by a wild animal. As I reached the edge of the beach, it was like I suddenly found traction, feet hitting the dusty track. I was still a ways away from the front, but I kept going as fast as I could. I could see that not even all the drill sergeants were keeping pace, but they didn’t have to. They could bring up the rear; there was no pressure on them. I would be all right so long as I never wrapped my tits in and gave up. Back at camp, people were already swigging down water as I came in with my group of stragglers. The drill sergeants had gone back to their basha, and the instruction was to be by the trucks with belt kit, rifle, and sun cream on in 30 minutes.

I wasn’t long in the showers as I had to get washed, try to grab some breakfast, and get myself with my kit down to the four-tonne lorries in less than 25 minutes. I could smell breakfast and I was starving hungry. I splashed my body with enough water to say I had at least been in the shower. I dragged an orange BIC razor over my chin and brushed my teeth with salt.

The whole washing process took less than three minutes. You wouldn’t find a Marine capable of a feat like that, I thought to myself. Marines do love a bit of self-pruning. Not this call sign. I needed at least one breakfast. Breakfast was a mixture of compo (field rations ) and fresh. There was a great stack of bread, some fried eggs, sausages, and baked beans. I made a sandwich the size of my head and got straight into it. I washed the whole lot down and it took less than two minutes. So within five minutes I’d washed, gotten dressed, and eaten. This left time for an executive-style dump before collecting my stuff and heading down to the lorries. Nothing worse than trying to rush a shit. All that pushing and straining will have your piles out. This was also a good time for a cigarette, if only to quell the stink from the open sewer.

I actually felt quite good on the way down to the lorry. It’s amazing how a good turnout can make you feel (20 kilos lighter). My kit was packed and my rifle was clean. I was looking forward to the day. We were doing dry contact drills in an open clearing just on the edge of the jungle. There was an air of shared excitement, as this was what we had come for.