When I was asked by my boss if I was up for a challenge, I didn’t fully expect the challenge I received. Army West Midlands run Exercise Reserve Challenge throughout the year, from various sites in the UK, including Nesscliffe Training Area near Shrewsbury.
Reserve Challenge provides an exciting and competitive leadership experience, and encourages individuals to develop leadership and confidence. Participants also learn about the Army Reserves and the kinds of activities Reservists participate in.
I arrived at the training area mid-afternoon, and became quickly aware that this was not going to be a luxurious mini-break. But having packed my walking boots and waterproof jacket, I hoped I was ready for anything.
We were quickly separated into teams, consisting of individuals from different organisations. Our DS, or Directing Staff, briefed us on the plan for the exercise and how to get the best out of it. We had a more formal briefing about the exercise, from the Lieutenant Colonel, who explained that it was all about leadership development and team-work.
He explained that the teams could expect to be put through their paces as we completed team building challenges including communication tasks, cooking exercises and problem solving, and that for one night we would be living ‘under the stars’. It was as this point that I thought “What on earth have I let myself in for?”
My group, the yellow team, were issued with some military equipment, including a sleeping bag, a basha (a multi-patterned sheet) and a burgan (rucksack) to carry it all in. Hang on a sec, where is the tent? Oh wait, the basha is the tent! But it’s a sheet! Thank goodness we had a Corporal to instruct us on how to put it up so it kept us dry!
Our first night was in a hut. The ladies shared a hut of 10 in two rooms, the toilet and showers were a few minutes’ walk away and the door to the hut squeaked. So now I am really wondering if I can do this?
We were up early to shower and dress, before a full ‘English’ breakfast. We mustered outside to put on camo-cream before deploying onto the training area, carrying our kit for the next two days.
First task was to make camp in the ‘harbour area’ so that we could sleep under the stars.
Okay so this is so far outside of my comfort zone, it’s not even funny! But I won’t let my team mates down, so……
Then we were off on a TAB (a loaded march which is relatively quick, over distance carrying a load.) We learnt basic military hand signals and how to walk in formation so as to protect each other. We learnt how the team is only as strong as its weakest member, and how the team must look out for each other to stay safe.
Next we went to different sections of the Army Reserves to have a go at their activity. These included a simulated accident at the field hospital, an observations task and a ‘Ready Steady Cook’ challenge.
We had our evening meal back in camp from the 24-hour ration pack, where I ate tomato pasta followed by sponge pudding, which was actually quite tasty, followed by a well-earned cup of tea.
I woke early, as the birds were singing very loudly. I slept really well as I was tired from the day before and my view as I opened my eyes was not bad. Camp was very peaceful and still, very calming.
We did ‘admin’, a military term for sorting yourself out personally. Ate breakfast from the ration pack, washing, sorting out your kit, that kind of thing. Then it was a quick pack up of our camp before heading out to do more activities. We went to Military Intelligence, Logistics, an RAF command task and did some shooting, blanks of course! I scored quite highly, I was impressed with myself. I will admit though, to being relieved that there was no massive assault course to complete.
Each activity allowed us to think as an individual and work as a team. For some tasks we were told who the leader was, and for others we assigned a leader ourselves. Good communication, time keeping and thinking outside of the box were key elements to the team success of the tasks.
I am quite a girly girl, I wear a suit and heels at work, and I am not far from mascara and a bit of lippy, but I can honestly say I loved the experience. I learnt a lot about myself especially that I am determined and can do anything I put my mind to. Not having a shower every day is not the worst thing in the world, and that 05:00 on a day in May, in a woodland area is rather lovely actually.
I can lead a team and properly support my team leader to achieve a common goal, and that a strong team can achieve far more when they work together without egos getting in the way. But I think the main thing I learned was that being pushed outside of my comfort zone and into the adventure zone, is not such a bad thing to do.
I would heartily recommend individuals and groups to sign up for the Challenge, and see where it takes them.
So I suppose when asked again: Are you up for a Challenge?
I am able to answer with a resounding YES I AM!
Sadly, there are no more challenges planned for this year, but if you would like any information on the ones for next year, please contact our employer engagement team at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0121 427 5221 ext. 246.