RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

The Beginning of a Great Adventure…

As you may know yesterday I finished the very first part of my training for my deployment to Afghanistan.  This training was a local Force Protection course run at my base, aimed primarily at Engineers who are deploying to Camp Bastion or Kandahar Airfield.  Here, they will spend most – if not all their time – inside the wire on the base itself, but just in case they have to go out of the wire to fix a broken helicopter at a Forward Operating Base, this course acts as a basic awareness course for them.

It was not mandatory for me to attend this course as I will be going out of the wire, but I have a whole load of training to come over the next 5 months or so before I actually deploy. But I decided to do the course to act as a refresher as, to be honest, I have done nothing for the past two and a half years…and it was…well…

You remember your first driving lesson? How you thought you’d just get in and drive. It’s easy, isn’t it? Your Mum, Dad and your mates can all do it so easy and do it without really concentrating on it totally. They can sing along to the radio, have a chat, the dangerous ones even read a map or use their mobile as they drive along – but they all seem to do it without any issues or problems.

And then YOU get in the driver’s seat for the first time. All of a sudden it’s not so simple. There is a lot going on at the same time, you have to think about your feet and you hands and then you are constantly looking about and thinking about your speed and your road position and other road users…and a load of other things going on at the same time too.

And them you finish your first lesson, and you get out and think about it all, and you realise just how little you know about driving. You realise that there is a LOT for you to learn and that there seems a very long way to go and not a lot of time to do it in. If you had a bad lesson, then it may feel like that you will never get there and you’ll fail your test…

Well. That is how I feel right now after this first exercise. We were doing patrolling drills, observation skills, actions on IED and mine finds or worse – explosions – and associated first aid drills, vehicle ambush drills, firing and manoeuvring…all the sort of stuff that I will very probably be doing when I go out on patrols with the army next year.

And although I know the theory of giving a fire control order – Group to fire, Range to target, Indication of where the target is, and the Type of Fire to lay down, or how to call in a Contact Report (who, where, what happened, what you are doing about it), or where to go on exiting a vehicle that has been put out of action by an ambush…doing them all at the same time, and thinking about the other people in your section and where they are going, where you need to go, where the enemy are, and a host of other things going on at the same time…I realised just how much I have to learn.

It’s going to be a very steep learning curve. I know that there is a bit of time to do it in, but the thing is, I will be going away outside of my own force. Operating with a different organisation, and so I want to represent my own force well. I don’t want the army types thinking – ‘Hear’s another bloody ‘crab’ who hasn’t got a clue.’ I want to be switched on and smart and ready from the word go.Maybe this is an example of my own perfectionist nature. I don’t like not being the best at what I do. It winds my girlfriend up a whole lot, as I need to get things ‘just right’ before I can go on, and if I am not happy with the state of things then I get really grumpy and can get quite irritated…

And this is how I got on the FP course. I was not in control. I was not happy with my own skills. I know, I know I haven’t done anything for 2 years so I can be excused a little I suppose, but that’s all well and good. It doesn’t get over the fact I now know JUST how much I have to learn and how to put it into practise and that in the grand scape of things I don’t have long for that to happen.

The thing is, I know about the learning process. Before you can be that driver who can sing to the stereo as he motors down the road you need to learn how to do it. Before I can happily call in a Contact Report I need to learn and practise it. You will be aware of how ‘bad’ you are at doing it. With practise you will become aware that you are able to do it, and then with a bit more it’ll become easy and you will be able to do it without thinking about it. It’ll come naturally. The books say those stages are Conscious Incompetence, Conscious Competence and Unconscious Competence. But it all starts with Unconscious Incompetence. Not knowing now much you didn’t know. Not knowing just how good or bad you are.  This is where I was last Monday, before the start of the course. I didn’t know how much I had to learn, but now I do. I am well aware with my lack of knowledge and skills. But at least I am aware of it now. Know where I need to go now…

I have a long way to go yet…Before I can be as good as I want to be – able to fit into the teams I will be working with, as an equal, with (most importantly) me not being a liability to them then I have to work hard and get through the next two stages of the learning process.

But then that is why I wanted to do this whole thing. I want to test myself. We spend far too much of our time in our comfort zones.  It’s good to push ourselves and test ourselves. And in doing so I want to feel as though I have achieved something tangible; to have contributed.  But to do so I need to realise that along the way I might not live up to my own expectations just yet. Maybe this whole adventure will be good for me, in teaching me a bit of patience – patience with myself.

In the meantime if you see some fella wandering about mumbling “Section, 200m, my 2 o’clock, lone tree, target to right of lone tree wearing brown jacket, rapid….fire.” Don’t worry. That’s just me practising…

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One thought on “The Beginning of a Great Adventure…

  1. I don’t know cause I’ve been out of the game for a while now, but I think you beat yourself up just a little too much. I understand you want to be your best and that’s commendable. The driving the car thing, well you will have covered some of these things in command management training, so it’s not quite your first lesson. Yes you are rusty, me be even very rusty, but I sense in you the determination to correct that, so good luck with that, give it your all, I’m sure in the coming months you will be fine. Oh and promise me one thing, do it, do it right, perfect it, but don’t wind your lovely girlfriend up! 😉

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