Today (Friday 5th June) 60 recruits marched on to the parade square at Army Training Regiment, Winchester (ATR(W)); within an hour they had proudly marched off as the first batch of soldiers to complete training in the regiment since the coronavirus lockdown.
Their journey to become a soldier began in January of this year on a cold and wet morning when they started their basic training at ATR(W).
Normally, fourteen weeks later, the recruit would stand on the same parade square, in front of their family and loved ones amidst pomp and ceremony, to pass out as a trained soldier of the British Army. However, for this intake, coronavirus has made for a very different experience.
Halfway through their training the pandemic took hold and in line with government guidance, the recruits returned home to help protect the NHS.
For eight weeks these recruits embarked on a virtual training regime, studying subjects such as battlefield casualty drills and the values and standards expected of a British soldier, all taught through online video conferencing.
Fundamental to a soldier’s ability to perform their job is physical fitness, so the recruits kept on top of this with the use of exercise apps. The platoons formed their own online groups and Army physical training instructors monitored the recruits’ progress.
It wasn’t until 17 May 20 that they were called back to barracks in a carefully orchestrated, phased return. On arriving back each recruit, and member of permanent staff, was taught the new practices and procedures that were in place to protect everyone on camp and reduce the risk of infection and transmission of coronavirus.
The service dress uniform usually worn on such occasions was substituted for camouflage working dress, as the new soldiers stood 2m apart across the parade square. The senior officer on parade was Brigadier Mike Butterwick, leader of the Army’s Initial Training Group. Speaking after the parade, Brigadier Butterwick said:
“Today’s parade was a far cry from the norm, but the achievement of the young recruits was in no way diminished Although there were no cheering crowds, the day was just as much of a celebration. They have all worked incredibly hard to get to this point and they should feel very proud to be standing here as trained soldiers.”