It's very rare I talk about my boys' achievements as it's up to them to carve out their niche in this world, but in this article I make an exception. After all it's my blog and I can do what I like!!! Giggleswick, the school Jim attended was fortunate to have, as part of the Combined Cadet Force (CCF), a Royal Marines detachment - one of only 18 in the country...
When it came to choosing a CCF service from Army, RAF and Royal Marines. Jim, typically, went for the most hardcore option; the Royal Marines and this is where he caught the bug.
He decided not to go to university and drove us mad, hanging around the house for 12 months. As you can imagine we had many conversations about what he was going to do next!! One day he announced he was going to join up, we had talked about it and I was delighted as I really believed that it would be good for him.
Not being from a military family, we were very green and didn't know really who or what the Marines were. Clearly they have a reputation for excellence but it wasn't until I started to delve into the history that the true magnitude of their achievements became apparent. This was a fantastically successful fighting force; the best in the world.
The next thing we looked at was the selection criteria which looked daunting indeed. I will skip over this as it's pretty tedious but if you want to know the full story visit the website of the Royal Marines Commando's. Believe me, to pass all the criteria so you can start basic training is an achievement in itself; I calculated that Jim was one out of 80 hopefuls that made it to training.
The Commando Training Centre, Royal Marines is located at Lympstone outside Exeter. When he went off with his bag packed, many of his friends and of course us lot, his family, waved him off at the station in Colne. There were tears...
The Royal Marines training is the longest basic infantry training programme of any NATO combat troops. Jim engaged upon the 32 week training programme joining 594 troop with some trepidation.
Showing at the same time was the ITV series 'Commando' which documented a troop of guys undertaking the fearsome training programme. Angela, Joe (my youngest son) and myself watched in horror as the series documented, in detail, the horrendous journey through the system of the 50 recruits. Each week more blokes were eliminated from the programme due to injury, inability to pass tests and just giving up... Throughout the show, the action cut to Afghanistan, showing the Commandos in action.
When he is away normally, we never hear from him; all change now as he called us every night without fail. Watching the series and talking to Jim at length I became more and more impressed with the organisation. The training team teach the guys, by demonstration, to do everything; how to shower, shave, clean their teeth, literally everything. They never tell them to do something they have not been shown how to do.
If you make a balls up in any way it's press-ups, lots of them and of course these are marine press-ups... If it is a bad cock up and you have exhausted your ability to do press ups, they will move you to squat trusts etc etc... Badass.
The instructor team are not permanent 'teachers' coming from operational units and go back into operational units once they have done their 'stint' as trainers. The recruits therefore benefit as they are being taught by real, active Royal Marines who know what it's all about, not teachers (but don't get me on that subject - I feel another article coming on).
The other great thing is that Officers train at the same base; this gives a real team feel and is quite different to the other forces which tend to have 'Officer' training establishments such as Dartmouth, Cranwell and Sandhurst.
On a few occasions Jim has told me of officers and NCO's (Non Commissioned Officers) coming out on the monster 'yomps' (these are basically runs across Dartmoor with between 30/140 pound of weight in their packs known as 'burgans') just because it was a 'nice day and 'fancied the exercise'. This clearly not only built a bond between recruit and the instructor team, but also showed the recruits that it wasn't that difficult!!!
I could go on about the arduous course but if you are really interested go on the excellent Royal Marines website and you can see week by week what they have to face...
So, he passed out and one of only 15 'originals' that started the course with 594 troop. It was an amazing day which again generated tears amongst family and friends. The whole Campbell family was immensely proud that he made it. Even our friends are telling everyone.
I did notice after the pass-out when he walked in with his green beret (I cried) that, compared to his friends, he was now different. He carries himself differently and has a confidence that belies his nearly 20 years; I am sure after operational experience he will change again.
He is now off to Leckenfield to do a month of 'driving' courses where he will learn to drive everything with wheels and tracks which of course are great skills and qualifications to achieve for his future. Following this he goes to join his first choice unit, 45 Commando based at HMS Condor in Arbroath and then probably off to Afghanistan in September.
It's currently fashionable to criticise the military. My experience has been nothing but excellent to date and I am not worried about his ability to do the job; the training was superb. I am also not worried about his colleagues, NCO's and Officers. After meeting a selection I would be proud to be in a team with and commanded by them. I am always worried however about the idiot politicians who decide what they do (I am not saying it's wrong to be doing what they are currently doing incidentally).
So summing up, I am the proudest father in the world and to all those who didn't think that he could do it, I will restrain myself from saying I told you so.
Will keep you all posted with his progress...