Recruitment into the Gurkhas

ghurka pipersI attended the Brunei Military Open Day for the Gurkhas and I had great fun despite the tropical rainstorm in the final hours! A write-up in the local news paper can be found HERE and a report with ‘professional’ photos can be found HERE (copyright Gavin Goh). The photos in this blog are kindly provided by GEORGE.

The event was set-up deep in the Garrison/Gurka territory in Seria down in sector H, South of the Tuker Lines. The programme promised a fighting demonstration, mock-up hostage rescue, gun-run competition, food n drink stalls, tug O’war and an opportunity to speak with members of the garrison and Nepalese gurkhas.

I first watched the knife-fighting display which featured the Khukuri, a Nepalese inward curving knife which is used in day to day tasks as well as more violent means. I then checked out the helicopters and the river-boat used for training ops. I bombarded the pilot with loads of questions based on observations from my several hundred flights offshore in a variety of choppers. This dissolved into a discussion about alternate uses for the contents on the mini-emergency kit, the size of a tobacco tin, which infamously includes a condom and a tampon.

At this point LIZ had to go home to give a language lesson so I returned with George, armed with camera and knowledge of previous years’ events and we took the tour from the other side, starting with the reimagined Nepalese village, with examples of traditional day-to-day life. Here I am trying out the rice grinder a dhiki [Dee-kee], operated by foot, which in turn pummels a long wooden lever into a kernel sump containing the rice grains. The milled product is then scooped out by hand. gurkha diki

Here I am trying my hand, erm, abs in the Gurkha recruitment tent. I chucked in a couple with bent legs but was informed the moves must be performed with straight legs. After successfully crunching out five inverted straight-leg sit-ups (and feeling quite pleased with myself), I was told that the entry level is 35 in under 1 minute! The solider laughed when I said “Maybe next year”. I proved to be substandard at the hit-the-stone-as-it-flies-out-of-a-tube demo. Small children seemed to prevail at this, presumably due to their ability to see the stone coming down the shoot. I did not get a sweetie for my efforts; Gurkhas do NOT reward perseverance if it results in crap-ness!

gurkha situp

I seemed a bit more adept with the stationary equipment, including night vision tracking camera and various rifles. I can aim on target, no bother but then when the safety is clicked off, I have to refocus all over. I probably shouldn’t attempt an alternate a career as (the worlds slowest) sniper.

I honestly didn’t really bat an eye-lid when they loaded me up with the double back-pack – a sort of vest with a low lying bulky hip package, topped off with a stocky waistcoat cum rucksack. It just goes to show me how much I am probably over-packing my running gear! The weight is mostly water which I usually process as sweat so the pack weight decreases over time, but I usually have allsorts of other goodies in there including first aid kit, phone, head-torch and food. You can see me here ‘cheekily’ slinging my handbag on over the army ensemble: give me MORE!gurkhas bag However, I did not try to run in the get up which definitely explains my nonchalance. Talking of food, there was a temporary mess set up just passed the surveillance room and I got stuck in to mashed tatties, beans and pasta. As I tried to pay I was told there was no charge and that it was part of the opportunity to sample the emergency rations (often provided in freeze-dry form). I thought it was very palatable and I quite fancied some of it for my ultra-kit-bag!! I suppose that details like having a small sachet of mayo makes all the difference when you’ve been hauling ass through jungle for hours and your chow is one of the greatest incentives to keep going. The luxury of a spoon! I have been known to scoop up pasta salad using the lens of my sunglasses……..

gurkha rations

My favourite tent had to be the map reading and tracking hut with loads of surveillance equipment. Think GPS Disney and then some. The lack of satellite coverage over Brunei (and available to us mere mortals via mapmyrun, google Earth or runfinder) has proven frustrating when trying to plan run routes or places to explore. The Gurkhas were intrigued with my fascination with maps (maybe they thought I was a spy 🙂 ) until I explained it was for running and then we talked about the hash and their jungle exploits. Maybe they thought it was daft to WANT to go in there if you didn’t have to go, for say, military training! I got a few tips and possibly the best running compliment I have received since (a) 2010: wee girl at Nairn shouts “Mummy She’s made it” as I bimbled in, in last place at the Highland games half marathon (b) 2011: During the Fetch Mile event an unknown spectator was overheard to say “She’s a lot faster than she looks” :-P.

So…drumroll….the compliment was when the Gurkha telling me about a map app for the iPhone said (whilst looking me straight in the eye)

“Running, hmmm, that’s why you look so fit”.

That one will stay with me for a long time. A loooooong time. Legendary!

A bit more about Gurkhas from the MOD website:

The First Battalion is currently based in Brunei, a small kingdom in the north west of the island of Borneo. The battalion forms the largest part of a British Garrison near the town of Seria. The majority of the battalion’s time in Brunei is devoted to jungle training. Most officers and senior NCOs will attend the Jungle Warfare course at some stage in their careers. The Bruneian jungle is a fantastic training ground. The terrain ranges from close thick set swampy jungle, to virgin primary rainforest, intersected by steep mountain ridges. It is the perfect environment to hone skills such as tracking, ambush, patrolling, survival, navigation and many more.

And some army kit ‘humour’ at ARRSEpedia

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