Adventurous training allows service personnel to enhance their everyday lives through challenging experiences, equipping them with the skills to thrive in and out of uniform.
Officer Cadet Dale Warrener, a member of Wales Universities Officers’ Training Corps (WUOTC), recently embarked on Exercise Dragon Corsica 18 and, in his own words, has reflected on his experience…
“We are sat in the middle of the Mediterranian, on an island which only months before was completely unheard of. In Corsica, two thousand metres up, a silence that feels foreign to the ears, mountains and their valleys surround us offering scenes eclipsing the Garden of Eden.
We are young officers and officer cadets of Wales UOTC on an adventure training trip in Corsica. Our goal is to trek 180km from the South of the island to the north of the island along the world famous Grande Randonnée – considered to be the toughest and most beautiful GR trail in the whole of Europe.
This offer to venture abroad I readily accepted, it was one of three overseas expeditions on offer over the course of the training year. The GR20 route has been revered as the most challenging of trips, attracting the fittest and most adventurous from across the Universities of Wales.
The first four days were the hardest as the body became accustomed to the many hours on the feet and carrying a load for much further than required on any army training weekend. Day 4, a 25km trek with a height gain and descent greater than Ben Nevis provided the greatest challenge. As the fatigue had set in, our bodies were beginning to utilise stored sources of energy to fuel the monstrous physical exertion we had all volunteered for.
Limited and basic facilities at the mountain huts led to long queues. On one occasion, several of us were washing in a stream, high in the mountains, next to a vacant ski slope awaiting the first snowfalls of winter. We were making noises that made us comparable to troop of apes as we attempted to submerse ourselves in the icy water, flowing straight from the highest peaks in Corsica.
Not all of the trip was arduous though, some friendships were made, others were strengthened and team cohesion was at an all-time high. By frequently being placed in positions where we relied upon one another, the way we operated as a team became far more fluid than it had ever had been before.
The memories made together are ones that will last and very importantly having been placed outside of my comfort zone I was able to develop as a person and grow in confidence. Returning home, day to day tasks no longer seem taxing, challenges set at university no longer seemed to be mountains but merely mole hills.”
The trip was part-funded by the Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association (RFCA) for Wales Welsh Reserve and Cadets Fund, which enables reservists to enhance their everyday lives through adventurous and challenging experiences.
University Service Units teach skills to students that look great on their CVs and enhance their future employability – plus, they get paid for it. Their respective models and programmes are designed to fit around the academic calendar but University Service Units are not your average university society.
Each service has its own university organisation that offer military experience, adventurous training and an energetic social life. Many students go on to serve as regulars and reserves, though there’s no obligation to join the Armed Forces after they graduate from university.