Life as an infantry trainee in 2021

The British Army continues to develop its infantry training as the impact of the Future Soldier programme starts to take shape.

The Infantry Training Centre (ITC) in Catterick, North Yorkshire, is what awaits those joining this part of the British Army.

While the Covid-19 pandemic affected all aspects of life, routine at the ITC continued as best it could in the circumstances with the introduction of social distancing measures.

What also helped was the emphasis placed on mental resilience and teaching techniques to deal with adversity.

This is an inclusive environment and the Army needs to reflect society Lieutenant Colonel Brookfield

Lieutenant Colonel Brookfield, Commanding Officer (CO) of the 1st Infantry Training Battalion, said: “We require people to be capable of delivering on behalf of the country in the most arduous of terrains around the world. But we train them to get there. We have individuals here that have come in with all sorts of experiences.”

A major difference in infantry over the past few years has been the inclusion of female personnel, and the CO has recognised the benefits of a more diverse workforce.

He said: “We have seen a number of females come through the training pipeline. Regardless of sex, creed, and colour, this is an inclusive environment and the Army needs to reflect society. Ultimately, this is about us doing the best by all of our people that come through the door.”

The Combat Infantry Course develops over time, in line with the operational experience of British soldiers overseas, and recent advances have progressed training to a new level.

Trainees are now issued their Virtus body armour and helmet during their time at the ITC, rather than just before deploying on tour, and are taught to use the General Service Pistol as standard.

They also have the advantage of using the Virtual Battle Suite (VBS) system, essentially a computer simulation that encourages learning before moving out into the field phase: a step up from the whiteboard lessons of old.

This new training empowers recruits, many of whom would have had minimal responsibility in their civilian lives.

I’ve loved it, I’ve always wanted to do this Rifleman Allen

Rifleman Allen, who passed out of the ITC in July, said: “The last 24 weeks have been very challenging. But our training programme has been solid. I’ve loved it, I’ve always wanted to do this. The attack at the end [of the final exercise] was a culmination of everything we have done.

“I was tasked as the point man, the one posting the grenade, the first man through the door. Carrying all this kit was hard at first but you get used to it. All of the Section Commanders get a grip of us, it’s a well-oiled machine.”

Other members of the platoon on the final exercise in Norfolk were keen to express their gratitude to the staff of the ITC.

Rifleman Askew, who operated the General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) during the final attack, said: “The training kicks in and the nerves slip away. You do what you’ve been taught to do. The Section Commanders help us with the pressure.

“This is the closest thing to being in the real situation, this is probably the best infantry training in the world, it’s top of the class.”