A career as a Royal Marines Commando
Corporal Paul Williams joined the Marines 14 years ago. His civvie job as a vehicle mechanic wasn't exciting enough and he wanted a challenge.
The Royal Marines are the Royal Navy's land force and the United Kingdom's commandos. It is a small but powerful Corps, operating in the air, on land and at sea.
Commando troops remain in a state of constant readiness, poised to take immediate action in any emergency. Once trained, Marines wear the Green Beret to indicate that they have attended a 32-week training course and took part in a physically demanding set of tests of endurance, by displaying courage, determination, teamwork and good spirits in adversity.
To become a Royal Marine, you must prove in training that you have the necessary qualities and skills: fitness, commitment, discipline and selfconfidence. You'll get some of this from training but you must be fit and determined from the start.
Was it a challenge?
Certainly, right from the first days. Only around half of those who started training ended up as qualified marines. It's tough but the staff want you to pass and you have to dig deep and rely on your own inner strength to get through. I know I can cope in any situation and deal with multiple tasks under pressure, because I've done that in my 32 weeks of basic training.
What kind of jobs have you been involved in?
We are the Navy's army. The last job I did was in air defence, working in a three-person team to provide cover for Marines going forward in battle. We used a shoulderlaunched missile to engage enemy aircraft. In Bosnia, I worked from a gunship hovering about 1,000 feet in the air protecting Special Forces. We often operate in remote places.
Are you working between action?
Yes, a lot of our time is taken up with training. We have an indoor trainer with realistic scenes and noises to simulate battle. We need to be ready to fight in all conditions so we do mountain training in Scotland and Arctic training in Norway. I am a ski instructor so I have been involved with training young Marines. We also train with other forces, such as the US Marines. We never know what we are going to encounter so we train in all techniques including those needed for built-up areas, hostages and dealing with minefields.
How important is fitness as a Royal Marines Commando?
A lot of the basic training is designed to get us fit and then we have to maintain that. We are encouraged to take part in as many different sports as we want to. I have taken my diving qualifications through the Marines. I play football and sprint for the Marines and the Navy.
What do you take with you on missions?
Everything! There is no-one to provide you with anything you have left behind! We carry our kit in a pack called a Bergen, which can weigh 35-45kg. As well as that, we have our weapons and ammunition to carry with us on exercise and on operations. We have to carry this over all types of terrain in conditions from the Arctic to the desert – often for up to 25km a day.
What's the best thing about being in the Marines?
My training helps me through life. I'm studying for a degree part-time. It's hard fitting it round my work, but I know that, if I put my mind to it, I can finish my degree and go on to do teacher training.
What type of person makes a good Marine?
You need to be someone who is mentally and physically tough and who sees difficulties as a challenge. You must be selfreliant but still able to work as part of a very close-knit team.
Paul's Commando tips
- Being a marine helps give you the confidence to tackle most challenges.
- You must be able to sort things out for yourself.
Becoming a Royal Marines Commando
- Basic training is followed by 32 weeks of arduous Commando initial training. The course is considered to be one of the toughest any British serviceman can attempt.
- Training includes physical skills and endurance, markmanship, first aid, drill, map reading and field craft.
- The essential qualities of a commando include fitness, commitment, discipline and self-confidence.
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