Knowing what I know now I can see why I behaved in certain ways during my time in the Army which at that time seemed strange to some of my army buddies.
I was on a course in Germany and a part of this course involved an escape and evasion exercise. During the early hours of one morning we were moving through a forest, when we came to a Y-junction in the track, you are taught that track junctions are one of the potential areas for an ambush.
We were meant to take the right hand fork to get to our rendezvous point (RV), but something was telling me not go that way but to take the left fork instead. I raised this with the rest of the patrol and during the discussion we had become divided about which way to go.
This should not have happened, but it is fair to say that we were already becoming fragmented and I was driving the wedge a bit deeper, not because I wanted to but because I was listening to my inner voice and I felt it was right to express myself, if I was to learn from this experience. It was decided that we should take the left fork in the end; we later found out that the next patrol that came through had taken the right hand fork and were subsequently bumped (ambushed).
During this course our patrol ended up being completely split down the middle, there was myself (Royal Artillery) and a Royal Engineer on one side and a Royal Signal Officer and a Light Infantry corporal on the other side. Some might say and indeed they even now might feel that this was a total disaster. I disagree; I saw it as a complete success, because I learnt so much about myself about my strengths and weaknesses and about others. If however it had been deemed a complete success my question is, what would I have learnt from it, perhaps not as much as I did?
We later came into conflict again, it had become apparent to me that we were now moving in circles and that we were being tracked by persons unknown to us, but I can have a really good guess as to who they were, unfortunately for them a blackbird had given them away. I pointed out to the patrol that we were moving circles because the church clock which chimed regularly started out on one side of us and now it was on the other side, plus we were moving through a dense pine forest that was so dark you could not see your hand in front of your face.
I suggested we lay up until dawn which was only a matter of a few hours away, because we do not know what is ahead of us and we could end up in trouble in other words someone could be seriously hurt. After some debate, I forced the situation and we ended up going to ground until dawn. Dawn came and we moved off, it just so happened that not more than 50m to our front was a 20-30m sheer drop onto a hard track. The officer looked back at me, and I at him, I wanted to say I told you so, but that would have been my ego and I resisted the temptation. Instead I was thankful that I trusted my instincts at the time and I was prepared to take stick for it as well, had I got it wrong.
Again it was not about right or wrong for me it was about trusting my inner voice and going with that even at the risk of being ridiculed by the others and it was also about the fact that I wanted to learn as much as I could from this course and not follow the leader I had work hard for nearly two years to get on the course so I wanted to make good use of it in everyway possible, after all is that not way people do this kind of course?
Some great lessons were learnt, which have stayed with me ever since, it was without doubt a very powerful course, the course in question was.
The Battlefield Survival Course @ the International Long Range and Reconnaissance Patrol School