A Comedy of Errors in the British Army UOTC: Part 1
Part 1: Selection
Some elements of the British armed forces are considered elite fighting units in the eyes of many. The SAS, the SBS, The Royal Marine Commandos, The Paras and The Cheshire Regiment are all highly regarded and have earned their formidable reputation.
The UOTC is not one of these.
I joined the UOTC, the ‘University Officer Training Corps’, at the tender age of nineteen way back in the September of 1998. This was while I was studying biological sciences at the University of Wales Aberystwyth, which is situated in a picture postcard little town on the coast, or as I called it, “the island of humanity in the sea of sheep.”
Seriously, look it up on a map, it’s in the middle of nowhere. Which is exactly why I liked it.
I have always been interested in the military, even as a kid. I fondly remember reading my Dad’s War in Peace magazine collection as a child. I was considering a military career, but I had heard horror stories from people who had joined the army fully, regretted it soon after, and were then trapped in it for a full term of service, whilst hating every minute of it.
Therefore joining the UOTC seemed to be a perfect way to "test the water" without having to commit to it fully, so I "signed up."
The selection weekend was simple enough, although eventful for all the wrong reasons. The first "event" was the practice run of the obstacle course. We were doing it as a group to save time, so I was stuck behind a barely eighteen year old kid who must have weighed all of 8 stone / 112 lbs / 50KG. “How did he end up here?” we were all thinking.
All was going ok until the high parallel bars, which were about eight to twelve feet off the ground, but seamed a lot higher when you were up there. And I was up there a long time.
Now I do not like heights very much, and I think our ape ancestors had the right idea coming down from those poxy trees, but this kid must have had full blown Acrophobia. He froze about two thirds of the way across, started sobbing uncontrollably, and refused to budge no matter how much encouragement the Physical Training Instructors were giving him.
This scene from father ted sums it up nicely.
The problem for me was that I was up on those bars as well, stuck right behind him. There was no way past him and I couldn’t go back. As we were both on all fours, this meant my face was uncomfortably close to his arse.
A good fifteen minutes goes by like this. By now my own fear of heights was starting to get the better of me. I was starting to feel queasy, and I was beginning to regret having eaten such a large breakfast. (In my defence, it was free food.)
Thankfully the PTIs and the rest of the recruits were able to coax him down before my own fear of heights took over, and so I was able to cross those bars and get down just in time.
I was not looking forward to having to cross those bars a second time when we had to do the assault course for real. However I learnt something about myself that day, that "anger can override fear." I worked myself into an animal state and attacked the course head-on, and I was up and over those bars in record time. It was only after I had finished it did I start to think to myself "damn those things were high."
Another thing I realised about myself that weekend is that I must be part vampire, or at least nocturnal. I barely scraped through the morning run, but I was flying through it after dark. I guess my circadian rhythm make me a night owl.
This is probably why I am not a morning person.
So that was selection weekend done and dusted. I passed, but the "fun" was just beginning…
Next time, we will look at the start of my "orientation."
Main Picture Credits
By Noltyboy at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons