Paras find path to fitness success

In the midst of National Fitness Day (22 Sep 21), we look at the British Army’s paratroopers, famed the world over for their ability to overcome even the most arduous of physical challenges.

The journey from civilian to member of the Parachute Regiment is not an easy one and does not happen overnight.

Rather, the officers and soldiers who undertake the Pegasus Company (better known as P Company) test week at the Infantry Training Centre (ITC) are stretched to the very limit of human capability.

We must...get comfortable being uncomfortable Major Crane

Major Crane, Officer Commanding of 216 (Parachute) Signal Squadron, said: “Operation Pitting [the evacuation from Afghanistan] served as a stark reminder that we must be ready to undertake arduous endeavours.

“We must be ready to don our weapon, body armour, communications equipment and bergen, and get tabbing: get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

The Paras represent the best of the Army’s regular soldiers, its spearhead under the new Global Response Force, which was deployed as part of the aforementioned operation in Kabul.

Fitness, as it is with all in the Army, is an underpinning factor used by ITC to develop individuals and wider team cohesion.

Nowhere is the value of keeping yourself physically fit better displayed than during the Lanyard Trophy, an annual Royal Corps of Signals challenge which sees troops complete a loaded march of 40 miles in small squads.

This year’s event, unsurprisingly won by an imperious team of airborne signallers, drew praise from across the Army

General Nesmith, Master of Signals, said: “[This was] the Corps family at its best - strong in body, mind, and spirit.”

Those thoughts were echoed by Major Crane, who would doubtless have been proud to see his charges get a grip of the competition.

It develops confidence in their abilities to move long distances at speed whilst under load Major Crane

He said: “The Lanyard Trophy is a fantastic military event. It demonstrates our officers’ and soldiers’ bravery, endurance, determination, selflessness, and compassion.

“It develops confidence in their abilities to move long distances at speed whilst under load; basic operational traits we must not take for granted.”

While it is true that many of the characteristics mentioned by Major Crane are ingrained within the individual already, they are also honed by years of Army physical training.

P Company itself, which takes place during week 21 of ITC training for infantry (other cap badges attend a condensed course tailored to their needs) is comprised of eight distinct events.

These test not only physical stamina but mental resilience as well; they include a log race, endurance march, and the famed milling – controlled aggression against an opponent.

The recruits are never truly alone though as they are motivated by the excellent directing staff (DS) and all encourage each other to keep going until the very end.

The same is true of all courses within Catterick’s ITC, and indeed across all Army units as part of the standard physical training regime.

As fit as soldiers are, there is simply no replacement for the determination, the sheer courage, to succeed and the Army continues to develop its people in this capacity through mental resilience training.

Those attempting P Company must look to draw upon this inner strength to get across those finish lines.