Royal Artillery Phase 2

J9R4W

Clanker
Hi all,

I'v decided to join the Royal Artillery and attempt the STA Patrols course with 4/73 on completion of Phase 2 training. I've been in touch with the battery's recruiting officer and he said that I will be able to apply for the STA Patrols course directly after Phase 2, and that there may be the option to train with 4/73 before attempting the course - he was not able to guarantee this but said that this would be easier if I'm posted to 5th regiment.

My question is, what does Phase 2 training at Larkhil involve? Will I be able to do extra training in my free time (if I have any)?

Thanks for any info.
 
Last edited:

Calimero

Clanker
Phys, signals, driving, phys and more phys.
 

J9R4W

Clanker
Phys, signals, driving, phys and more phys.
Thanks for the info, in terms of driving, will you have more free time on your hands if you have a standard civilian drivers licence, or is this irrelevant? Also, when choosing a regiment to join after completing Phase 2, are you often given your first choice or are you usually sent to where the army needs you?

Cheers
 

J9R4W

Clanker
@J9R4W

Lurking here and noticed this. Phase 2 is no great shakes. Only 14 weeks and pretty generic gunner stuff. Driving is B licence if you don't have it, B+E for trailers and the SDC. You’ll also go down to Blandford for a mon-fri for comms trg. Your best bet is to try and maintain objective and think critically when looked at the 4/73 recruitment Instagram.
I’ll offer a slightly different perspective for you. I passed SRPC (1/2015) and left the Bty in 19’.
I came in via Larkhill. 11 on my phase 2 made it to SRPC 15 test week.
With regards to getting posted to 5RA you will be required to submit a posting preference proforma around week 9 or 10 of larkhill. As you can imagine 5RA is a popular spot. I got my second choice. As ever, it depends on the needs of the RA and wider Army. Regardless I still got signed off to attend lateo foundation within six months of landing. Was then on SRPC 3ish months later.
Throughout my recruitment funnel into 4/73, like you, I was implicitly told by the Bty recruitment cell that they were the Army’s long range, surveillance and recce specialists. The reality once in didn’t square.
The running joke is patrols course the same as the OTC. It is designed as a honeytrap to get fit & eager blokes in through the RA door, give them a bit of a look at the green Army and some basic recce skills, but not actually focused on delivering a specific operational capability. You’ll find you will mature and switch on quite quickly when you are out of phase 2. You will learn to take things with a pinch of salt. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a bad job by any means and you will spend a lot of time on exercise. You will deploy on many an Arty exercise. Have a Google for Ex Sphinx Resolve. There is even a Forces News video kicking about on YouTube that shows Gnrs from 7 PARA RHA in six man sub surface OPs. My point being there is a bit of mythologising on the general theme of aren’t 4/73 and HAC great and that they are the single points of contact for OP construction, but it isn't true.

You’ll spend a lot of time crawling about STANTA and SPTA. You’ll get decent enough range packages every few months. But between ex’s we’d parade on at 0800, PT, doss about after NAAFI break until lunch, lessons in the afternoon or down the stores getting ready for the next ex, mill about until orders are printed for next day and thinned out around 1630. Again, you can probe this for yourself if you are willing to look beyond the ally photos on the Instagram page and actually ask what day to day in camp life looks like. Obviously this is fairly accurate across the Army but it helps to understand the reality.
Now COVID travel restrictions are lifted they will get at least an annual OTX- Kenya, Belize, US normally.
But do not fool yourself into thinking you will be deploying as small surveillance patrols operating covertly and on their own at reach. Don’t take my word for it and research, objectively, yourself. The last time the bty conducted operational ISTAR was during the HERRICK era when integrated into BRFs. Have a look yourself into BRFs and you’ll soon clock that they are made up by Inf patrol plts, who can happily produce battalion level recce troops who perform perfectly adequately on ops without having to do the SPRC. Their own, typically 6 week, in house, patrol platoon cadres do the trick just fine. Not to mention the fact that they have a considerably higher quality of infantry skills than Spec observers.
Also consider that if you wish to limit the chances that you’ll bomb out and end up in RA for your time that 4/73 takes from all-ranks, across all 3 services of for a 2 year posting, or you have the option to transfer. So don’t feel you have to join RA for a quick route in. You can join, do a bit of soldiering elsewhere and if you still want to have a crack at 4/73 you can apply.
If you are genuinely rock hard about brigade level reconnaissance and advance force capabilities then I suggest you research Pathfinders. They require specialist covert parachute insertion techniques. Specialist patrol skills/equipment and a host of other interesting capabilities. Given the global response force role of 16X PF obviously are much more likely to deploy in this role.
This isn’t designed to pour cold water on your dreams but hopefully it provides another perspective. You can go and weight it up yourself and seek out information other than carefully selected and edited social media posts.
Thanks very much for the insight, I really appreciate that info.

Some background info on myself: it's been my longterm ambition to join the Royal Marines and I've enjoyed training hard to meet the physical standards. Unfortunately, I have had a few issues with the medical at the triage stage, and am currently appealing a PMU decision with the navy. However, I have passed the army medical triage so am looking into options in the army.

I've considered the Parachute Regiment, though from what I saw about 4/73 and the role of working in small teams behind enemy lines, I found that to be a more interesting role; similar in a sense to the old LRDG in WW2. But after reading your post, would you suggest that the best route to taking on a role like that would be to join the Paras and try out for a recce role, perhaps even with the PF?

Generally what bench would do advise would be the best to go for? Or roles that I should look into?

Thanks
 

J9R4W

Clanker
The DS answer is always going to be the same with this sort of thing. Properly, objectively, research the roles that interest you and then do a very honest appreciation of what you want to achieve. Only you will know what is best for you. But, at the same time mate, manage your expectations and don’t wait for the “perfect” job to suddenly dawn on you as that will induce paralysis in your decision making stage. I see you are already 27 so it might be time to get a wriggle on. Bare in mind most of your age group will be quite a few steps ahead of you in the CoC no matter where you land whilst you live in the block with 18,19 and 20 year olds.
You are really fortunate in that joining the army isn’t like what it was in the past. Every unit has a careers page with an email address and social media accounts now. So you can actually have conversations with them and not just rely on shiny recruitment posters.
All I will say is you may want to consider if your motivations are in the right place? It’s natural for people who haven’t yet joined to cling onto the idea of joining a “cool” unit. This may sound flippant, but the problem with that thinking is you potentially set yourself up for disappointment/failure when the reality doesn’t match. It’s much better to base your motivations on being the best soldier you can be (bit chad I know!) and going from there. Focus on being in that top 1/3 of basic training. Focus on getting the basics squared away to a high standard and generally being a good bloke. That will help you way more on those dark, wet, cold mornings than just chasing the chance to be “elite”.

No matter how you dress it up 4/73 wears the capbadge of The Royal Regiment. So it might be worth researching and understanding more about The Royal Artillery capabilities. Look at all the various Artillery Regts, from 32RA to 47RA, from 26RA to 4RA and so on. During your phase 2 you’ll get briefs on each unit prior to submitting your preferences.
Joining 4/73 won’t separate you from the RA. Your phase 2 at larkhill is known now as the Initial Trade Training Gunners course (ITT) so have a search yourself for that online. Don’t quote me on this but it may be dropping from 14 weeks down to just 11 weeks now. Nonetheless you will learn to fire and maintain the Light Gun. Have a look for yourself what life on the gun line entails.
Therefore if the cards don’t fall the way you plan or you later RTU then you need to be aware of what this actually means for you in reality. Look up the L118, the AS90, GMLRS. Research what it means to be a Royal Artillery Gunner. Ask yourself are you happy to come into 4/73 via RA or do you think it is just an unimportant stepping stone to becoming a spec observer?
Point being, never forget that you won’t suddenly divorce yourself from RA if you go into 4/73 and the majority of your exercises will be alongside fellow RA units. The 4/73 & HAC recruitment social media would have you believe that you suddenly become some uber ally SF lite unit. If you come in via the RA as you plan you will be a gunner first. The same goes for those that want a maroon or green lid. Gunner first and then to join 29 Cdo, you need to pass the AACC. To join 7 PARA RHA you then need to pass P coy. So always remember that it’s gunner first then ‘specialism’ second.

This isn’t supposed to be 4/73 & HAC bashing. I had a decent enough time there but I just wasn’t convinced of the excellence that was “advertised”. Some top lads and some very decent soldiers in the Bty but definitely not top of the pops. You’ll find that infantry recce platoons (patrol platoons) tend to have more rounded and experienced blokes than 4/73. They tend to be experienced lads from their rifle coys. Whereas many 4/73 ranks come straight from phase 2. As I said before, Inf patrol platoons manage to do the same role to the same, if not higher standard, without wasting time doing the SRPC. I still maintain the SRPC is a recruitment tool. Even other Artillery units can happily produce FSTs, MFCs, JTACs who perform just fine on operations without such a course. Go onto YouTube now and type into the search bar “7 PARA RHA on Exercise” and you’ll find a forces news clip that shows airborne gunners operating in six man sub surface hides. You get my point…
Also, you may think you like the idea of being in the field a lot but it might help to wait until you’ve done a few exercises. You may find that living out in the field for prolonged periods isn’t your cup of tea after all. Recce can be a hard slog and isn’t glamorous. Routine in an OP can be nails and very draining. The reality is you will drill these skills on various UK training areas. Lying in a hole out on the back area of Catterick, OTA, STANTA or SPTA is more likely to be the norm as opposed to training somewhere exotic. It can also be quite a cliquey crowd and if the rest of the blokes think you are a bit of a chopper then it’s a non starter for you.
This isn’t me patronising you by the way, it’s just to offer a dose of realism.

Obviously there are pros. 4/73 do attract quality lads on the pretence of a pretty ally course. You’ll get the opportunity to do some interesting things and meet interesting people. You’ll do things you haven’t even thought about like aerial reconnaissance of operational areas which in plain English is hanging out of a heli with an expensive camera. You’ll do decent LFTT ranges and feel, momentarily, like your patrol contact drills are shit hot. You’ll get pretty comfortable working in small groups or as an individual. You’ll get some very decent med training, You’ll do plenty of tabbing across arduous terrain on the majority of exercises. You’ll be pretty competent in constructing and occuping rural sub-surface, rural surface and urban OPs. You’ll find that it is quite an adult environment and the new blokes aren’t dicked about (much…) But for me it all just felt a bit chippy and was nothing I couldn’t be doing with any number of other units. End of the day you are based in Catterick surrounded by Inf types and it won’t take long for you to suss out that the inflated sense of self importance is pointless. You’ll notice that with 4/73 most of it is based around Artillery exercises and not actually doing the small, covert OP, behind enemy lines stuff the ally looking recruitment posters portray. You’ll notice that life in camp can be quite mundane, especially when you are down the stores, emptying an ISO container, counting everything and repacking it for what feels like the 100th time that month.
Remember; that even during the height of Afghan, 4/73 just provided troops to the BRFs alongside Inf patrol platoons. No special or cool little niche role. So your vision of a modern day LDRG is, unfortunately, a fantasy. I’m happy enough I did it but it was pretty underwhelming.
Like I said if you remain genuinely interested in brigade level reconnaissance and advance force soldiering then, personally, I think you should to look at PF once you get a few years of soldiering under your belt. Due to the nature of 16X they are held at very high readiness.
Once serving, Like 4/73 Bty, applications to join are accepted from soldiers and officers from all three services and all cap badges and trades. You may find their role aligns more with what you seem to be interested in. Or you also have SRR who, obviously, provide a special recce capability within SF group. Again, they welcome applications from across all three services. Once serving you can find out what you need to know.
All of this isn’t to sway you away from 4/73. It was to provide a perspective other than loaded recruitment bumpf and you can go away and research a bit more objectively. What ever you decide just make sure you are doing it for the right reasons and don’t just believe recruitment hype, be objective.
Thanks, that caused a massive pause for thought for me. Some of the things you mentioned that really stuck out to me are that, in the RA, you are "gunner first, trade second" and that, if being honest, I agree that I would see Phase 2 RA training as an "unimportant stepping stone" to joining 4/73. I don't have an innate interest in the wider RA or a desire to serve as a gunner, so perhaps that would not be the best route for me. I like the looks of what 4/73 do and it does sound like a great role, though maybe not ideal for myself.

I get what you're saying about being drawn in by elite units, and I'm sure most lads if given the option to join any unit, they would say Paras/Marines etc., but the RM has been a longterm ambition of mine. I first applied over 3 years ago and had to wait out a medical issue before re-applying last year. When I first applied I was lucky enough to be sent on a 2 day visit to 42 with other applicants to do some phys and get a look at life and came back buzzing to join up even more. I've kept my hand in with fitness and am at a decent level and training at near enough the standards for CPC. Fingers crossed I win the appeal with the navy, though if not I'll have a look into other units and jobs with a bit more of an objective eye as you suggest, and not get sucked in by pics of guys with C8s(!) Cheers.
 
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