On one of the wettest days of the year and over the rugged terrain of Dartmoor, two Army Reservists from London-based 131 Commando Squadron successfully completed the formidable Reserve Forces Commando Course (RFCC), earning the coveted Green Beret.
Their final day involved a gruelling 30-mile yomp carrying a weapon and 30lbs of kit, to be completed in eight hours.
“The first two and a half hours were probably the most difficult – wind, sideways rain, temperature down to four degrees and the ground absolutely saturated,” said Second-Lieutenant Dave Grant, a 33-year-old geospatial analyst originally from Nottingham.
Sapper Mark Pigden, aged 26, a tree surgeon with Hertfordshire County Council, was just as thrilled to finish. “There’s been a whole year of hard training and real commitment building up to this moment,” he declared. “When the beret was presented, it was quite an emotional moment.”
Following 8-months of build-up training delivered over a series of weekends, the reservists spent a fortnight in Devon alongside Royal Marine Reservists on RFCC. A 12-mile load carry (with 100lbs of kit) led to the beginning with a six-day field exercise and then, after a day’s rest, launching into the final series of challenges:
Dave’s success means he can now take up a new appointment as a troop commander at the Squadron’s Headquarters & Support Troop in Kingsbury, London.
“I almost joined the Regular Army when I was young but other things then got in the way,” he explained. “When I moved to London, I took my chance to join the Reserves more than two years ago – and was commissioned a year later.”
131 Commando Squadron is the Reserve sub-unit of 24 Commando Regiment Royal Engineers, with headquarters at Kingsbury in north London and other detachments in Plymouth (300 Troop), Birmingham (301 Troop), and Bath (302 Troop).
The Squadron has deployed worldwide to provide combat engineer support to 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, and is one of the most travelled units in the Army Reserve.
Commando Engineers are trained in amphibious warfare, as well as how to operate in jungle, desert, mountains and extreme cold. As ‘Sappers’ they are trained in a wide variety of engineer skills, such as bridging, demolition, obstacle crossing, route denial, construction and infrastructure support.