UPDATE 30/06/2015 – It’s now been quite a while since I was at Halton for PRTC and even basic training. However, from comments on here and reports from other people, I believe the PRTC is the part of selection which has changed the most. Therefore, I’ll leave my post here, but the following account was sent to me by someone who has recently returned from PRTC and has more up to date information on the changes. If you have any further questions, I can redirect these to people who have recently returned and get the answers you need.
We arrived at the train station and were picked up, allocated our rooms on the coach and then once we arrived, we went in the briefing room. We were given an overview and then had to unpack and get into our gym stuff.
Surprisingly the bleep test was straight away. There were a few drop outs and also one lad bottled I think and said he was too hot to do it. Sit-ups, press-ups etc then off to shower and back to the briefing room. I believe we gave our GCSE certificates in to a woman who gave us a receipt for them, they will be passed onto Phase 2 training or returned if we decide not to join. That night we were in the shop and bar, asleep by 2300.
Obviously I’d packed a load of stuff to last until Friday, but they told us that we were exempt from Functional Skills tests (due to GCSE certificates), however, you WERE NOT exempt if you had Scottish awards. Some unhappy jocks left in the room. We also had a lecture of sorts from a Flt. Lt, RAF Regiment and 2IC at Halton I think….pretty funny guy.
Thursday morning was spent doing various small tasks, pen portrait, type on the PC as much as you can in 60 seconds, spell test and various calculator and English questions, nothing major. Then lunch and quickly changed into suits again, into another briefing room with a Sgt who runs the training centre who was stood with a lad on SATT (Servicemen/women Awaiting Trade Training) and a civilian girl who works in HR. He basically asked us to rate our AFCOs and we had to stand up if we rated it above 8 etc. I think his job was the smoothly manage the recruitment process and be an overseer of the centre, been in 20+ years. After this, the coach showed up and took us to the station.
(My personal PRTC experience, slightly out of date but still plenty of pertinent information)
The Pre-Recruit Training Course (PRTC) is a 3 day event (if you exclude arrival day) that takes place at RAF Halton. This is also where you’ll do your 10 weeks basic training (Phase 1), should you pass this. The aim of the PRTC is to make you familiar with the place you’ll be doing your Phase 1 Training. Some people like to say that PRTC will give you a taster of what to expect at Phase 1 but I don’t feel this is wholly accurate. It will ease your mind in the sense that you’ll become somewhat familiar with the environment you’ll be doing your training in. However, it doesn’t prepare you for the challenges you’ll face at all, except perhaps early mornings and time management.
Tuesday (Day 0)
It was the morning of PRTC. Everything was packed, and I was ready to go. All that stood between me and RAF Halton was a 2 and a half hour train journey. Not bad compared to a few who had come from further afield and had to fly in! I arrived at Wendover Station and just as I stepped onto the pavement outside, a big white coach pulled up. There was a group of 15-20 other lads waiting and they told me they’d been waiting over an hour. I had chosen the optimal time to arrive it seemed! After going to pick up a few others from Tring Station, we arrived at Halton. My attention was instantly drawn to the parade square. This is where, at some point in the future; we all wanted to be standing when we graduated from basic training. It seemed so far away into the future but seeing the parade square definitely gave me that extra bit of motivation for PRTC!
We stepped off the coach and lined up in front of our Sgt and Cpl who would be running our PRTC. We met them outside our block, got told what we needed to do, and then we did it. It didn’t take too long to get used to following orders. We got assigned a room, found an empty bed space, and dumped our bags. We then went into the briefing room, (which would also become familiar fairly quickly) picked up our bedding and went back to our room to leave it on our bed ready to be made later. We grabbed a pen and pad from our bags, and went back down to the brief room for our first briefing. We had to read some forms which told us about all the rules which we would have to adhere to during our time at the PRTC. These included places we could go and areas that were out of bounds to us, no mobile phones were allowed outside the block, if you’re walking anywhere then don’t talk or be extremely quiet, and a few more. While waiting for the brief to begin, we were informed some trains were delayed and therefore we’d be waiting a while for everyone to turn up. I can’t remember much of what this brief consisted off, except one part about social media usage. Let’s just say, I’d made a stupid mistake in some information I’d posted online before I got to Halton, and I was called out on this and it was definitely a learning curve. In short, don’t put any information online which you wouldn’t want the wrong type of people to read. Think before you type, and definitely think before you post! Lesson learnt.
That evening, we had dinner and then a walk around the main parts of Halton just to show us where we could and couldn’t go. After this, we had a couple of hours of free time in our blocks. It was quite nice to just unpack and have a chat with the other lads. For the first night, I think the lights-out time was around 2230 or there about. I think most of us were in bed for 2200 as we knew we had to be up early the next morning for our fitness test.
Wednesday (Day 1)
0600 was the time to be up, and we had until 0640 to be washed, shaved, showered, dressed and to be outside. I think due to it being the first day; some people were a bit keen and decided to get up at 0530 and earlier. It wasn’t necessary, and we were all soon told that we were to be up at 0600 the following mornings and no earlier. We were formed up outside at 0640 in our PT kit and we headed down to breakfast. This is definitely the time to play sensible. You fitness test is IMMEDIATELY after breakfast. Therefore, it may not be in your best interest to decide to scoff a full English breakfast. There are other mornings where you can do this but unless you want to be the guy or girl running back to the changing rooms during your bleep test to throw up… it probably isn’t the best idea. And yes, that did happen.
After breakfast, it’s straight down to the gym. You get ushered into the changing rooms, and we waited a few minutes before one of the PTI’s came in, called out our names and gave us a group number. Groups had around 20 people in them, so with around 80-90 of us on the PRTC, there were 4 groups. Group 1 does each part of the test first, followed by 2, 3 and 4. Because of this, you always get sufficient rest between the bleep test, press-ups and sit-ups. The rest period between each is a lot longer than I was expecting. We then all spilled out of the changing rooms and into the gym. We lined up and had a few things about the bleep test explained to us and before we knew it, the first group were starting. I was in group 3 so had to wait around 20 minutes for the first two groups to finish. My group was up, and the first couple of 20m shuttles were paced by one of the PTI’s. After that, it was up to us. It was at this point I chose to completely zone out. I wasn’t constantly checking where I was in relation to everyone else; I just made sure my foot tapped the line on every bleep. I did notice at around Level 7 that some people starting speeding up way too much, which resulted in a warning from the PTI’s as they stood on the sidelines and observed. In contrast, those who were falling behind are given 3 warnings. If you miss the line once, you are given your first warning. If you managed to catch up and get to the line on the very next shuttle, your warning is dismissed. If you miss the line consecutively twice, you have your second warning, and if you missed it again straight after for a third time, you’re out. Overall, not a huge amount of people failed. I’d take a rough guess and say about 10-15 fell short of the required level on the bleep test (which is dependent upon age and gender).
If you do fail the bleep test, you don’t automatically fail the whole PRTC and then go home. You’re allowed to fail 1 part of the fitness test and still continue with the rest of the course. The bleep test, sit ups and press ups are the 3 different parts. If you fail 2 or more parts, then you go home. So it really it isn’t bad as some people think, and there’s more leniency than you might have thought. Press ups and sit ups aren’t as bad as I imagined they would be either. Yes, the form is strict and yes, you’ll be told if you’re doing it wrong. But you get given a very clear demonstration on the form before you start, and as you’re actually doing your press ups and sit ups, you’re told if you need to change your form in any way. I was told to go down a bit further on a few of my press ups but none of them were discounted and all was good. The vast majority of people passed both the press ups and sit ups.
The fitness test feels like the ‘main event’ of the PRTC. Everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief once it was done, and we all relaxed a bit more too. It was back to the blocks to get a quick shower, with emphasis being on the word quick. The BKSB tests were next, so we soon found ourselves in various classrooms. The Literacy & Numeracy tests are sat together, in other words, you’ll do one straight after the other. Both take 45 minutes so you’re looking at just over an hour and a half from start to finish. Nobody failed these, the level required to pass is basically primary-school level questions. Some of the questions are so deceptively simple that you may feel inclined to go against your instinct – don’t. It really is as easy as it looks. Some of the higher level questions get a bit tougher but as long as you pass, it doesn’t really matter what level you get. You get the results straight after you finish too which is quite nice to get that over and done with so quickly. If you had an absolute nightmare and didn’t reach the required level on the BKSB tests, then you would be sent home, but nobody on mine was.
The BKSB testing took us up until lunch time at around 1215, and we all got a packed lunch which wasn’t bad at all! I can’t remember too much of what happened that afternoon if I’m honest, but we had the evening brief around 1600 where we were issued our service numbers and dinner as normal around 1730 – 1800. We then had a brief on insurance at 1830 that evening. It’s worth listening to as you may want kit insurance once you start training but I’m not going to lie, it’s not the most engaging thing you’ll do during the PRTC. You do get to relax in some really comfortable chairs though, so it’s swings and roundabouts!
Thursday (Day 2)
Thursday is arguably the busiest day of the PRTC. Everyone is up at 0600 as usual, and outside for 0640. Once you’ve had breakfast, its back to the classrooms for some of you to do Functional Skills Maths. Those who are not having their Functional Skills Maths exam will be shown something called the Defence Learning Portal which is some online resources and learning which you need to complete once you go home and before you start training. You get shown how to log in, navigate the website, and what you need to do on there. Once you’ve gone through this and completed your profile, it will be time for you to do the Maths exam (Those who had the Maths exam first will then have the Defence Learning Portal lesson). I didn’t find the FS Maths test too challenging at all really, as most of it is common sense. The focus of this exam is working out. Unlike the BKSB test which is multiple choice, the FS test requires you to work out the answer and show all of your working. It’s basically a short, easier, online version of a GCSE exam. Depending which trade you’re applying for will determine whether you sit the level 1 or level 2 exam. I was sitting the level 2 exam and I still found it fairly straight forward. At most, it’s a few basic level GCSE questions, so nothing that a bit of a refresh using GCSE Bitesize can’t sort out!
Unlike the BKSB tests, you don’t find out how you do on Functional Skills at the PRTC itself. It takes around 4 weeks for you to hear back so in a way, it doesn’t really matter how you do. You won’t fail the PRTC because of it. Worst case scenario is that you’ll have to go to basic training a few days early to have a few lessons in whichever subject you failed (Maths or English) and then re-sit the test.
After lunch, you’ll be going down to be briefed by the RAF Regiment about the Initial Force Protection module during basic training. This is all the weapons handling and practical skills that you’ll do. You’ll be told a little bit about what happens, what to expect, and just general information. After this, probably the best part of the PRTC – boot issuing! It does feel good to finally get your hands on a pair of boots, especially when you realise how comfortable they are. You’ll have your feet measured, get some boots, have a bit of a trying on session, have a walk up and down in them to make sure they fit, and then you’re done. You get back on the coach (Yes, it’s quite a long way and you soon realise how big Halton is!) and you’re taken back to the main, central part of Halton. We then had a medical brief while still carryong our boots in their box and by this point we were all pretty knackered. The fact that the room we had the medical brief was hotter than the core of the sun didn’t help a great deal either. You’ll have to fill in a form before you get to the PRTC detailing which immunizations/injections you’ve had, and this is your opportunity to give that form to the right people. If not, you will probably find yourself getting many ore injections than you bargained for when you begin training. Other than that, you learn about keeping healthy during training and how to best avoid injuries which is always useful!
Post-medical brief, you’ll be going back to your block for your evening brief, detailing what you need to do ready for tomorrow. Friday is obviously the day you leave, so any mess needs to be cleaned up, carpets need to be vacuumed and your bed space and block needs to look exactly how it did when you arrived. You may also want to spend some time on the Thursday night packing, but you do get chance on the Friday morning so it’s not essential.
Friday (Day 3)
The morning routine changes slightly on Friday. You still have to be up at 0600 and outside for 0640, but you also have to take down all your bedding and put it all neatly on the correct piles in the briefing room. You then march off to breakfast as usual, before once again heading back to the classrooms, this time, for the Functional Skills English exam. I was actually exempt from this exam as I already had the Functional Skills qualification in English at the right level. If you have already done and passed functional skills at the level you need, take the certificate with you and you won’t have to do the exam there. As far as I can remember from when I did it at college and from what the other lads told me, it’s basically an exam which includes letter/formal email writing or something similar. Everyone said they found it fairly easy too so it shouldn’t be a huge source of nerves.
The end of FS English signals the end of your main tasks for the PRTC. You’ll then be heading back to your blocks to pack and clean up everywhere ready for an inspection after lunch. Joint effort is needed to make sure the briefing room is nice and tidy and every single bed space is clean. You’ll be told to get rid of fluff on the carpet, so attention to detail is needed. It’s not a big, scary inspection like the ones I expect at basic training though so don’t sweat over it too much! You’ll take your bags down and leave them outside before lunch, and then once you’re back in the blocks and have had your inspection, it’s time to go. It’s a good week and I was quite sad to leave. Now, more than ever, I’m eager to start training. Just one more final hurdle awaits – the final interview.