Weeding Out

March 16, 2012

I thought this week I might introduce readers to the final phase of the selection process for an airborne soldier. This segment of extreme physical activity is deliberately ‘salted’ with classroom periods so that each test element takes place after a stiffening-up sedentary stage. Cynics might say this is deliberate to add to the psychological burden on the applicants.

From personal experience the whole pre-selection training and test period is fraught with roller-coaster highs and lows. Early morning arrives to find you at a nadir of self-confidence but dogged determination and ‘can-do’ pushes you on through the trial and tribulations of the day to bask in an evening of euphoric elation. This jubilation mystically evaporates during the hours of darkness and the approach of dawn.

P Company Test Week is common to all three Pre-Parachute Selection (PPS) courses. Regular Parachute Regiment Recruits and All-Arms officers/soldiers undertake the same basic tests. Parachute Regiment recruits attempt Test Week at week 21 of their Combined Infantry Course (CIC). All-Arms candidates attempt Test Week after a two and a half week ‘build up’ phase. Reserve soldiers from 4th Parachute Regiment (4 PARA) and other Reserve Airborne Units attend a condensed 4 day Pre-Parachute Selection course tailored to their requirements.

During Test Week, candidates will be expected to run, march and carry dead weights over 1 – 20 miles on undulating terrain. Test Week comprises of 8 separate events over a four and a half day period. Seven events are scored; one (the Trainasium) is a straight pass or fail. Each event is designed to assess a candidate’s physical fitness, mental robustness and determination. A candidate who fails to display the appropriate level of self-discipline and motivation throughout Test Week will fail the course.

Test week starts on a Wednesday morning and finishes the following Tuesday.


10 Mile March (Wednesday morning)
The 10-mile march is conducted as a squad, over undulating terrain with each candidate carrying a Bergen (backpack) weighing 35 lbs (plus water) and a weapon. The march must be completed in 1 hour and 50 minutes. TA candidates have 2 hours.

Trainasium (Wednesday afternoon)
The Trainasium is an aerial confidence course, which is unique to P Coy. In order to assess his suitability for military parachuting, the Trainasium tests a candidate’s ability to overcome fear and carry out simple activities and instructions at a height above ground level. The event is a straight pass or fail.

Log Race (Thursday morning)
A team event with eight individuals carrying a 60kg log over a distance of 1.9 miles’ undulating terrain.

Steeplechase (Thursday afternoon)
An individual test with candidates running against the clock over a 1.8-mile cross-country course. The course features a number of ‘water obstacles’ and, having completed the cross-country element, candidates must negotiate an assault course to complete the test. The march must be completed in 19 minutes or under to score 10 points; TA candidates have 20 minutes 30 seconds.

2 Mile March (Friday morning)
The 2 mile march is conducted over undulating terrain with each individual carrying a Bergen (backpack) weighing 35lbs (plus water) and a weapon. A helmet and combat jacket is also worn. The march must be completed in 18 minutes or under. TA candidates have 19 minutes.

Endurance March (Monday)
A squadded march conducted over 20 miles of severe terrain. Each individual carries a Bergen (backpack) weighing 35lbs (plus water and food) and a weapon. The march must be completed in under 4 and a half hours. TA candidates do not undertake this event.

Stretcher Race (Tuesday morning)
Teams of 16 men carry a 175lbs stretcher over a distance of 5 miles. No more than 4 men carry the stretcher at any given time. Students wear webbing and carry a weapon.

Milling (Tuesday afternoon)
The final event of Test Week is 60 seconds of ‘controlled physical aggression’ against an opponent of similar height and weight.

For those of you still present next time, we’ll go through parachute training together; believe me it’ll be a doddle after what we’ve been through this week.

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