As a junior soldier, the training continued for Steve. He spent time in different garrisons and went on exercises during day and night in rugged terrain. A lot of time was spent on the ranges where he honed his skill with a rifle. The soldiers practised firing in the prone position, kneeling and standing. Steve found his accuracy improving and was confident of hitting the targets at distances exceeding four hundred metres, even in bad weather conditions.
After parachute training, the battle marches increased in intensity and he became accustomed to running ten miles at speed in full kit. At the end of these marches, the men in maroon berets practiced fire and manoeuvre techniques where they would advance up hills in pairs alternating between one man running while the other gave covering fire. It became the norm to fire live rounds on these training exercises to increase realism.
Steve became accustomed to flicking the safety catch off with his thumb and lining his sight up with the target. Steadying his breathing, he held his breath for a moment as the target stabilised and he squeezed the trigger. With a massive cracking sound, the bullet fired straight into the target as the empty brass casing ejected to the right. The smell of cordite became familiar. He kept on firing until the twenty-round magazine emptied. Unclipping it, he snapped in another pre-loaded magazine and continued firing. To a command of “Cease fire,” he put the safety catch back on and stood as the Corporals recorded each soldier’s scores.
Sometimes, they practisced on electronic firing ranges where targets would pop up as each soldier crept through the woodland. Steve felt at home on these exercises as it reminded him of being a boy while adventuring in the forest. He walked between the trees with a Corporal following to assess his progress. A target moved into view and Steve double-tapped a couple of bullets from his sub-machine gun into the target. He dropped to the ground, moved backwards and then to one side. With the gun in his right shoulder, he looked up and saw the target rise again so, on one knee, he hit the target again with another couple of bullets. He continued to the end of the range and sat down. Sweat trickled down his face, which was smeared with camouflage cream. The Corporal nodded and wrote something in his notebook.
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