7 FP WG – Ex Jambiya Crump

Stn Cdr joins No 7 Force Protection Wing to “lobbest thou Grenade towards thy foe” as Wg personnel complete the Live Firing element of Pre Deployment Training for HERRICK 17.

As stated in 7 FP Wg’s Training Directive, personnel within the HQ have to achieve Full Operating Capability (FOC) whilst progressing through training for its next scheduled Op – deployment on Force Protection duties at Camp Bastion on HERRICK 17 in Oct 12.  Ex Jambiya Range is the Live Firing (LF) part of the mandated PDT package which upon completion meets the requirements for FOC. It consists of live rifle and pistol shoots, live HE grenade throwing and use of all pyrotechnics to be used during HERRICK 17.

With rifle and pistol ranges completed in the week previous, the final range package required to achieve FOC was that of throwing live L109 HE grenades.  This is typically a practice available only to RAF Regt personnel, due to the nature of their employment on Ops – however opportunity is given to those non RAF Regt personnel employed on FP Wgs to familiarise themselves with the drills and physical act.  It also for many people, including the author, fulfils a childhood dream which previously had only been acted out in the playground as a youngster.

With this in mind, OC 7 FP Wg, Wg Cdr Chris Bishop decided to extend an invitation to the Stn Cdr, resulting in the mother of all dilemmas for the CO: sit behind a desk trawling through staff work, or spend the day ducking, diving, lobbing and shouting “Grenade” with 7 FP Wg at Beckingham Camp ranges. Looking outside at the driving rain, meant there really was only one choice, because after all, skin is waterproof!!

A brief worthy of the Book of Armaments, Chapter 2, verses 9-21 was delivered by Range Conducting Officer (RCO) Flt Lt Andy Costin, followed by a comprehensive set of practice runs using L111 training grenades, along with various emergency drills – which focussed on actions in the event of dropping rather than throwing a live grenade.

The games were then over, next were real grenades.  The actual event itself is relatively simple and straightforward.  The start point is in reinforced concrete holding buildings where personnel wait to be called forward.  The fact that you can both hear and feel the slightly muted “crump” of exploding grenades, followed by numerous impacts of shrapnel and debris just adds to the tension.  Once your name is called you move to an external admin console point where grenades are issued to you.  That previously “muted crump”, no longer is muted and serves as a reality check that these grenades in your hands are real, they are dangerous and its your turn next!  From a tower overlooking the range itself, the RCO then instructs you to move into the throwing point where you are met by a Safety Supervisor, who directs your preparation and “lobbing” of the grenade itself.  Next the pin is pulled, and thoughts of “this is heavier than I imagined”, “I hope I can throw this far enough” and “manly throw, manly throw”, cross your mind.  The act itself then happens, and using your best war voice, you shout “GRENADE” as a warning to all personnel nearby before diving for cover behind the solid wall of the throwing point.  The heavy crump of the explosion replaces all that previous tension with a desire to know how you did which is satisfactorily supported by the sight of a shredded target on its side, some considerable distance from its original position.  Marshalled from the throwing point into a second concrete holding building, your time throwing grenades is complete, leaving only time to reflect and analyse who actually among you is the most deadly.

After enthusiastically leading from the front with OC 7 FP Wg, shredding a number of targets between them, the Stn Cdr (once cornered by myself for a statement of his grenade training experience) said: “It had been great to experience part of 7 FP Wg’s pre-HERRICK work-up, to observe everyone growing as both a team and in combat capability as the approach to what will be an undoubtedly extremely demanding Op tour”.  He added: “Specifically, it was fantastic from a personal perspective to be taken from zero to (almost) hero in grenade throwing.” This was something he attributed to the quality of instruction within the Wg, and suggested that after personally witnessing some of the results, the Stn Cricket team need to actively recruit from within 7 FP Wg.