Ex Vixen Eagle 12
As part of the RAF Major Adventurous Training Scheme, 9 members of 7 FP Wg HQ took part in a 6 day Nordic Skiing programme in Zweisel, Germany, between 21-28 January 12. The overall goal of the expedition was to allow members of the newly formed Wg to work together in a strenuous AT environment in preparation for operational deployment on Op HERRICK in late 12. With only one of our number having skied uphill previously, there was an air of trepidation as the Wg staff boarded our Heathrow bound minibus in the early hours on a cold Lincolnshire Saturday morning.
It seemed that cooking daily communal dinners and making sandwiches for 9 were the least of our worries as we landed in Munich, drenched in driving snow. Working on a Sunday is never a glorious affair, however the beautiful surroundings of the Bretterschacten training area would certainly have lulled many into a false sense of security, not knowing the physical test they were about to submit to as we ‘mastered’ the basics on day one. Following our baptism on snow, the training programme would see the team embark on daily Nordic Skiing lessons in the Zwiesler Waldhaus training area involving feats of daring such as standing up, falling down, and the ‘Holy Grail’ of Nordic Skiing manoeuvres, the ‘double pole with flick’. Day after day we practised our lane changes and snow ploughs at ever increasing speed and with scant regard for our own personal safety, whereupon most often, it seemed like the safest way to stop yourself was to fall over, rather than risk a snow plough on skis considerably skinnier than most were used to. Providing perfect preparation for the Regiment Operational Fitness Assessment, day 5 of the exercise saw the Wg, as well as the other participants on the exercise tackle their biggest challenge yet. The ‘Kliener Arber’, a mountain measuring 1398m in altitude, was to be climbed, and a German Luftwaffe station situated at its summit sought for souvenir photographs. The ascent would take 3 hours, with a mixture of Nordic Skiing techniques used for the cross country sections and the ‘Herringbone’ (not dissimilar to how penguins walk) used for the many steep ascents. All the while those who had already reached the summit came back down at near terminal velocity on a path measuring in places no more than 10ft wide. Falling only hurts the first time, as the descent proved, where the real skill was not to avoid falling, but to avoid crashing feet first into the many flailing airmen already entangled in icy, harsh snow banks waiting to catch you as you fell. With the descent completed in ‘quick time’ compared to the nightmarish climb, a reward was sought for a hugely strenuous day of physical activity, where all who completed the tour skied a distance greater than 20km up and down the rolling terrain of the Bavarian National Park. With a clear head, and a well worked set of lungs and limbs, hot chocolate became the remedy of choice for many to slowly warm up in a café at the bottom of the Arber, before that familiar foe took its toll and the ‘fresh air sniper’ got us all for the drive back to Zweisel. Well rested, but sore from the previous days tour, a final day of competitive racing saw 7 FP Wg band together to race against teams from other RAF stations, in a 4 x 1km relay race, after an individual time trial pitted the section against each other for bragging rights on our return to Coningsby. In recognition of our mastering of the basic Nordic skiing discipline, Bronze awards were received from the German Nordic Skiing Association at the end of the week, enabling us to return on future events in the Vixen Scheme and achieve our Silver and Gold accreditations in the Nordic Skiing discipline. Embarking on our journey home from Zwiesel to Coningsby, we were left to reflect on a week where we had been tested, where plenty had taken themselves off to ‘have a word with themselves’ and where we had taken countless bumps, bruises, bashes and scrapes in the name of Adventurous Training.