British Army officer cadets from Sandhurst took part in a training exercise as the final hurdle before graduating from the prestigious military academy amid the pandemic.
The 10-day-long Exercise Dynamic Victory is designed to test every skill the cadets have learned on the 44-week course.
Colonel Adam Crawley, the officer in charge of all training at Sandhurst, said that cadets were previously separated and monitored for 14 days to ensure they were a “clean cohort”.
They then formed platoon households to continue with their training.
“Covid-19 absolutely has had an impact,” said Col Crawley.
“We have still hit every single training objective that we needed to in the term and on this exercise.
“The experience for the cadets has just been slightly different.”
He continued: “What makes it work is all about prevention.
“Keeping them protected from the outside world, stopping them becoming infected and then isolating.”
He said there have been no positive tests for Covid-19 this term.
The exercise, usually held in Germany, was this year held at the Stanta training ground near Thetford, Norfolk, due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
It has been almost a decade since the exercise was last conducted in the UK and meant cadets did not deploy from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire this year.
“Getting on a bus is not quite the same as jumping on RAF strategic air transport to get out to Germany, so that’s a big change,” said Col Crawley.
“The terrain is slightly different, but the cadets don’t know the difference and the exercise they’ve had here will be just as testing and demanding.”
The Sandhurst cadets wore a new design of uniform that was first used by the Parachute Regiment and is adjustable to give a better fit.
This includes a helmet that can be tightened to fit like a cycle helmet.
Col Crawley said: “It was originally designed for combat arms, it was designed for the infantry and the armoured corps, and it was so good they decided to roll it out to the whole Army.
“Sandhurst received it early because we have a high proportion of females and it was designed for combat arms when it was all male. It’s not any more.
“We were the ideal environment to be able to test it with more females.”
Officer cadet Peony Grainger, 24, from Sussex, said that as a “small female in the Army” the new uniform is “brilliant because finally I’ve got kit that fits me”.
“For a while it was always hanging off me and it’s not very comfortable at all,” she said.
“Having your own personalised kit where everything works and everything functions properly and fits you properly is great.
“The key difference is the body armour is very adjustable so you can tighten it a lot better than you could before.
“It also all works in coordination with each other.
“All the kit fits together a lot better.
“Before it was sort of a hodge podge of multiple different kits that didn’t quite work all together whereas now all of this is designed to function as one entity.”
Before joining the Army she graduated from Newcastle University with a geography degree then spent two years in various jobs including teaching assistant, nanny, events co-ordinator and spending some time travelling.
She said her cousin was a dentist in the Army for about 10 years but “really that’s the only exposure I ever had to the military”.
“It was pretty sudden when I turned around to my family and said that’s what I wanted to do but they’ve been fully supportive of me all the way through,” she said.
Asked why she decided to join, she said: “I think it’s the mental and physical challenge that you get every day.
“I definitely was never going to be someone to sit behind a desk so it was finding a job role that could keep you enthusiastic, engaged and have that diversity every day.”