Falkland Islands Defence Force new recruits start training
On our second day in the Falklands we jumped straight in and did what I was hoping to do at some point – film the military. Fellow colleague Caroline decided that it could be a great documentary project to follow the new Falkland Island Defence Force (FIDF) recruits through their 12 week training program, so we set off with them on their journey with our cameras close by.
Journalists tend to work out of hours a lot of the time because you have to go where the story is and that can be anywhere at any time. So on our second evening here, after a gorgeous meal from the Malvina House Hotel (the nicest restaurant in town) we made our way to the FIDF hall where we caught up with two new recruits Jacob and Marcus.
Upon arrival it was hard to know how these recruits would react to the cameras but they went about their training whilst we eagerly filmed them rifle training and warming up. Having never filmed the military before, I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly they were afterwards when we interviewed Jacob and Marcus. Marcus being a Falkland Islander with family here and more senior recruit, with Jacob being a younger contractor over from the UK. We chose these two contrasting recruits to be the main characters of our documentary, who we would later follow through the training process. We left with plenty of shots for our stock footage – to save up for our edit at a later date and were told about the FIDF recruits first exercise the next weekend. First recruit training weekend I really didn’t want to get up this morning. But in the spirit of FIDF we trekked out to Mount William in the early hours of Saturday morning and headed up the cold mountain with the troops. Josh and I had drawn straws with Caroline, who ended up in the beautiful Sea Lion Island lodge, filming all kinds of wildlife, whilst Josh and I roughed it in the wild. But what an experience. We had been briefed by Colour Sergeant Trev Law, who had told us that the highlight of this first training weekend with the new recruits was to conduct a surprise attack on the group in the middle of the night. Slightly concerned, we cautiously continued to film the new recruits learn about camouflage and field exercises.
As the sun set we were tasked to put up our tent in the dark, to which we set about enthusiastically. Quickly, Colour Sergeant Law realised we had missed out on training of our own and decided to do us the honour. A few minutes later and we were cosying up in our nice North Face tent and toasty FIDF sleeping bags. Under the stars, alongside the military, I fell into a deep sleep, until I was woken up by the sound of gunfire.
Under the stars, alongside the military, I fell into a deep sleep, until I was woken up by the sound of gunfire.
Suddenly, Josh and I realised this was the chance we had been waiting for – to get out there and film the men in action. Using all blank rounds, to our relief – we stepped into the line of fire into what was effectively no mans land with our camera to catch the fire fight on tape. Both sides were doing surprisingly well in the dark as the new recruits defended their side of the mountain, the older FIDF members played the enemy, who were carefully closing in on their position. Soon one of the men approached us and “updated” us on their situation. Two of the enemy had been captured and one was shot dead but the allies were regaining ground and taking back the mountain. Although a simulated exercise, I couldn’t help think how real this all felt and how similar things might have been just thirty years ago out here on Mt. William during the Falklands conflict. I suddenly had a new appreciation for the conditions those men had to fight through – the bitter cold and wind relentlessly wearing down morale. But here we were, and morale was high as the new recruits acted out their first proper exercise in the field. After more machine gun fire and as the last flares were set off to light up the night sky, we realised that we weren’t going to get much more on camera in the pitch black of midnight, so with one last breathtaking gaze at the stars, the gunfire died down and we headed back to our tent. The next morning, we caught up with Marcus and Jacob who had endured a sleepless night and were looking a little worse for wear, but didn’t want to show it. Marcus talked us through their tactics in response to the surprise attack and we bagged our last interview of the day as a tired and weary Joshua Saunders attempted a final piece to camera to sum up our piece. During a rather proud stroll down the mountain, we reflected on our first FIDF experience filming out in the field. It was, to say the least, quite thrilling. Check out our piece online that went out on Falklands In Focus