“If you have never skied before, but you want to, then the Eagle scheme is a must! Our group unanimously agreed it was one of, if not the, best activity we’ve ever experienced.”
The primary purpose of Adventurous Training (AT) is to help prepare all Service personnel (regardless of their rank, branch or trade) to meet the challenges of contemporary operations and warfare, through real life experiences. One branch of the RAF’s vast AT catalogue is Exercise Alpine Eagle. Defined as “a scheme to introduce beginners to alpine ski touring through piste based training and foundation snow craft sessions”. Convinced we were in for a week full of challenges aimed at targeting the way we learn and operate under pressure, we departed for our exercise.
During the exercise we were located in the Alpenrose lodge, Gunzesreid Säge, Allgäu Region of Bavaria, Germany. Here we received kitting, briefs and lessons on subjects such as avalanche, safety and ski etiquette. We learnt about the ideal learning model, also known as the comfort, stretch, panic model. It was explained that when learning in a comfortable environment, individuals will not utilise their full potential, as there is no need to push themselves. This is where the stretch part of the model comes in. Utilising the week to the fullest, we would stretch ourselves, avoiding going too far and reaching PANIC! This is where everything goes wrong and you can end up elbow deep in snow with your ski’s 60 yards behind you.
Initial instruction took place on small beginner slope covered in good snow, easy lifts and about 20 children under the age of 10 that would proceed to make most of us look like clear beginners. The first day was aimed to give us an introduction into the sport of alpine skiing. Instructors gave both groups one-to-one instructions until they felt we were competent to start hitting the small beginner slopes. Days two and three we moved to a resort called Graz Gehren where we used the ideal learning model to learn, stretch and consolidate ourselves over a wide range of slopes ranging from slow easy blues to long steep reds. Each descent of the mountain provided a different individual the opportunity to lead, be at point and plan out the route to be taken. This allowed everybody to develop their core skills of teamwork, leadership, communications and planning techniques. Even though we were still only on the slopes classed for a beginner there was a shared feeling of pride in what we had achieved in such a small time. All of us began to realise that our abilities were growing at a rate far beyond expectation.
Days four and five were used to further stretch ourselves. Moving to the location of Baldershwang where we improved on our skills and began to learn the advanced techniques of traversing and parallel turns. As before, we used the easier slopes to develop our skills, practicing relentlessly until they were mastered. With these new tools we attacked the notorious red runs known for their steep slopes and long devilish paths (when we were brave enough!). Each day better than the last and our spirits constantly high we realised how this was the perfect way for us to practice our core skills, all in an environment that had such high personal development potential. Just like in current operations where service personnel are tested on a daily basis.
For our last day of skiing we travelled to Ifen. It was here that we put our week’s training into practice. We warmed up, donned our skis, made our plans and proceeded to descend every red and black run we could place our skis on. All the while using the ideal learning model – battling the occasional feelings of fear and a mild sense of impending doom – constantly stretching ourselves past limits we didn’t think possible in such a short time. The culmination of which was everyone successfully surpassing their expectations, and congratulating each other on some incredible descents and an incredible week.
On return to the lodge at the end of our final day, everyone was tired, drained and sore. This didn’t stop us. After a de-brief and group presentations given to show our appreciation and acknowledgement of the work that goes into these weeks, we travelled back to the local town for some last night madness. We drank away the last of our Euros and talked about the week and decided that it definitely wasn’t our last trip to the Alpenrose and Alpine Eagle. From falling over our feet on the first day to traversing top to bottom of one of the biggest peaks we had ever set foot on in a matter of minutes, all in one week, an impressive feat by anyone’s standards. Before we left we were posed the question “how would you justify this exercise to the taxpayer?” I would tell them that when using good instruction, constant teamwork and peer motivation, any target can be achieved. This is the point of all exercises. Allowing us to go away and learn these skills, we all left Germany confident, prepared and ready for anything our career could face us with.
If you are interested and would like more info contact one of the participants below;
Planning: Sgt Martin Parfitt. Participants: CT Quentin Eva, Cpl Karl Elliott, Cpl Tom Benson, SAC(T) Hayden Carr, SAC(T) Jamie Lewis, SAC(T) Aurgah Mahmud, SAC(T) James Whitaker, SAC(T) Marcus Clarke
Or visit: http://www.raf.r.mil.uk/review/ExEaglesNest/Eagles_Scheme.htm for all relevant information.
SAC(T) Hayden Carr