Former Tupton Hall student Ryan Watters has just passed his training and qualification as a Royal Marines Commando.
We spoke to him about his journey since leaving school and asked what it has taken to achieve his goals...
I spent 7 years at Tupton Hall - 5 at main school and 2 in the Sixth Form. I was always a fairly confident student but was never really that outspoken in lessons. In Year 9 or 10 I started to come out of my shell and become confident in my own ability and began to really have fun in most lessons. I would probably class myself as an average student in terms of academic ability. I really had to work hard in every lesson but I didn’t it was worth it because it meant I deserved the grades that I was awarded in the end. There wasn’t one single year that I didn’t enjoy throughout my time at Tupton and I made many great friends along the way.
My favourite subject at school was PE. I enjoyed both the practical and theory side, and I put this down to the excellent PE department. I also enjoyed Geography, History and particularly the Psychology A Level course.
During my two years in Sixth Form I unfortunately suffered family bereavement in Year 12 and bereavement of two friends in Year 13. This significantly knocked my confidence at a time when I was sitting AS and A Level exams. At the time I felt this would jeopardise my chances of getting in at my first choice of University so I chose not to apply at the end of Year 13.
After much help from family, friends, great school support staff, and lots of revision and hard work I finished Sixth Form with a B in Geography, and two Cs in PE and Psychology. Despite my doubts, I actually managed to exceed my target grades needed for my first choice University and Mrs Burton and Mr Shuttleworth went above and beyond by contacting Sheffield Hallam University to ensure I got on the course I wanted!
The following September, I started a Bsc (hons) degree course in Physical Education and School Sport at Sheffield Hallam University. I wanted to become a PE teacher, having been inspired by the PE staff at Tupton Hall who were, and still are, great role models.
As well as wanting to become a PE teacher, I've also always had an interest in the Armed Forces. But I never really knew how to apply or what the job fully entailed. I completed several teaching placements at local schools, both primary and secondary, but decided that I just wasn’t quite ready for the teaching environment. I've done my training and would still love to become a teacher of PE in the future. But thought while I’m still young and injury free, I wanted to pursue my childhood curiosity and try to become part of one of the most elite fighting forces in the world - the Royal Marines Commandos.
It's a lengthy process from when you apply to completing the 32 week basic training (the longest basic training of any armed forces unit in the world) and begins as follows:-
- Naval Service Recruitment Test - verbal communications, numeracy and general reasoning
- Interview - formal interview to understand reasons for joining and suitability
- Medical and eye tests
- Pre-joining fitness test- 2 x 2.4km runs
- Potential Royal Marines Course - complete a number of physical tests and a look into what life will be like
During the 32 week Training programme:-
- Numerous field exercises to assess soldiering ability
- Weapons handling tests
- Arduous physical tests including the 4 Commando tests (9 mile speed march, Tarzan assault course, endurance course and the 30 mile speed march across Dartmoor) all of which have time limits.
- Various trips to military camps across the UK and Normandy war memorials.
- Lectures on current affairs and conflicts
- Lessons on British Armed Forces history
There have been many high points in training such as meeting new friends and sharing both mental and physical challenges together.
One personal achievement was being awarded the Marksmanship Badge in week 13 of training - each recruit sat an Annual Combat Marksmanship Test (shooting at different ranges and in different positions). I scored 49/50 and was one of 4 recruits out of 40 who was awarded this badge which you keep for the rest of your career.
Other high points during training were completing the dreaded Commando tests after spending a week on limited food rations, sleep deprivation and carrying personal kit and weapons that weighed up to 130 lbs. On completion of these tests I was awarded the Green Beret which only a small handful of men and women in the world proudly hold.
Some weeks and days were harder than others and I can only describe my personal experience as a rollercoaster ride. Some low points include living away from home, being constantly exhausted (some weeks only working on 1-2 hours’ sleep a night), arduous relentless fitness regimes and eating up to 4000 calories a day.
However, a significant low point which I will remember for the rest of my life - and hopefully laugh about one day - was during an exercise on Dartmoor at the beginning of February. Temperatures fell below freezing and the worst storms Dartmoor had ever experienced hit the area we were training in. After 4 days of torrential rain, no sleep and marching miles across the famous hills of Dartmoor, all 40 recruits in our troop caught the onset of hypothermia. But we had to complete the 6 day exercise in order to pass and move on to other tests in training. Due to the conditions and expectations of some of the exercises, many of my friends either became injured or had to leave training. So only 17 out of our original troop completed the full 32 weeks.
Later this year I will be drafted to 42 Commando unit in Plymouth, Devon where I will be involved in Maritime Security of the UK and Irish borders with a potential Anti-Piracy deployment around the Horn of Africa and other countries where conflict is continually occurring. Other aspects of the job include mountain training in Norway, jungle and desert training and I am hopefully going to specialise in the Royal Marines Commando Military Police Unit or Maritime Sniper unit which involves counter-terrorism deployments all across the world.
Has anyone/ anything inspired you along the way?
The main thing that has inspired me to complete training and continue to improve my skills is the sense of wanting to defend the freedom and way of life we all enjoy, and to do my bit to help this country and other countries remain as safe as possible in dealing with crime and terrorism.
I would just like to thank Tupton Hall School for everything they have done for me, my family and friends over recent years. I, along with many others, appreciate the hard work that staff put into ensuring that every single students achieves their dreams and obtains the grades, experiences and jobs that they deserve. I always look forward to following the achievements at Tupton Hall School and I am confident the school will continue to succeed in ensuring that students enjoy their time there as much as I did.
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