Exercise Cambrian Eagle

Exercise Cambrian Eagle is a week of Adventurous Training held at the FDTC (Force Development Training Centre) Crickhowell, South Wales. This year was to include hill walking, caving, mountain biking and kayaking in teams of six, accommodated in tents for the duration of the five day stay.

Arriving at around 3pm on the Monday with RAF Marham six hours behind us we set up base camp and await our timetable for the week. There is a tangible atmosphere in the air as each of the six teams originating from Waddington, Leeming, Leuchars and three from Marham start to weigh each other up. All of us making sweeping judgements on who will be good at mountain biking and kayaking by how well they put their tent up or how expensive their AT clothes are! We are deemed ‘Marham 2’ and our first day will be taken up with a eight km hill walk and two hours caving all of which will be scrutinised for team-work, effort and ultimately success rate but that’s tomorrow and our first night under the stars is mainly taken up by a cultural tour of the local historical buildings in search of sustenance and refreshment. Day one and a little too refreshed and sustained we head down for kitting, a routine that remains for the whole week depending on what you are doing that day.

We head off towards an ominously steep looking hill and before too long we are looking at our feet without looking down as the hill turns into a small mountain, the previous nights hydration is seeping out of us but we manage the climb/walk in double quick time and have already made ground on the team ahead who had set off 30 minutes before us. Part two of day one is caving, something I was not looking forward to due to my  crippling claustrophobia but the task to map the caves and tunnels in total darkness was completed although how accurately was still to be revealed.

A quieter night and plenty of rest sees us bright and breezy for a day of mountain biking at the Bike Park Wales centre, the longest downhill course I’ve ever frequented. The rain was lashing down and yet ‘Marham 2’ was ready and willing for the first phase of the day, a two km hill climb. I focused on who I thought was going to be the slowest member up the hill and planned to stay behind them as the time is clocked from the last member over the line. When she disappeared into the distance I realised that getting up the hill in good time without my heart packing up was now my new goal. ‘Marham 2’ completed the climb and as a team our hearts sank as the un-apologetic PTI announced that we had another three km to the top before we get a sniff of any downhill. We were all pleased to see the summit after a gruelling climb although the rain was so heavy now visibility was at an all-time low. I will say this, it is worth the effort as one or two of us lowered our seats, cleaned our glasses and set off down. By the time we had reached the bottom of four or more brilliant downhill courses our muddied teeth were clearly visible through large smiles. Day two was concluded with a tyre change challenge which resulted in a win for us even though Madonna was still a virgin the last time most of us had changed a bike tyre.

Day three was glorious compared to the previous wash out which tied in nicely as we were on kayaking alongside another team from Leuchars. The way it plays out is a series of events pitting you directly against the team  sharing the lake starting with a little training and inevitable early swim as my competitive streak far outweighs my balance (sorry Jack!). Two to a boat you must navigate the lake finding questions; a correct answer gives  you a piece of equipment in order for you to build the “raft”. With already aching shoulders from navigating the lake and successfully qualifying for all our raft equipment we are ready to build ‘HMS Marham 2’. I say raft but its two kayaks tied together with a sail that you don’t need because the race to come is performed under paddle power. Without blowing our own trumpet too hard we absolutely smashed the raft build and race, we had built and paddled our raft across to the other side and back before the other team had even set off from shore giving us maximum points to add to our impressive haul so far.

The week is concluded with all teams meeting in the pub for food and results, I have to say the food laid on by the local hostelry was of biblical quality and quantity and extremely welcome after a week of “rat packs”. Fed and watered we sat down and awaited the OC of FDTC Crickhowell to deliver the results of the week which from start to finish was brilliant and organised within an inch of its life by the staff and PTIs of training centre. Our C4i team of five lads and one girl had played a blinder calling upon physical fitness and determination but also the ability to work as a team and utilise every member’s strengths to best effect. A great week of adventure training concluded with a win for our team much to the disgust of the team from Waddington made up mainly of ringers and freshly graduated officers, never mind lads there’s always next year…

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