This brand new series sees Jeremy Kyle find out exactly what it takes to be a driver in the British Armed Forces.
Jeremy joins the team at the Defence School of Transport in Leconfield, East Yorkshire, the largest, toughest driving school in the world where 16,000 trainees pass through each year, taking part in over 100 different courses. It’s here that every driver deployed in Afghanistan is trained and the skills learned in training help save lives on the front line.
Over the course of 12 weeks Jeremy follows a group of trainees learning to drive for the first time and a group of experienced soldiers who are learning to drive highly specialist vehicles ready for Afghanistan. The series follows servicemen and women at all levels – from teenage soldiers straight out of basic training, to battle hardened veterans coming back for extra training,
In this first episode, Jeremy is introduced to some of the school’s impressive fleet of vehicles and is taken for a spin in a Mastiff, the school’s newest recruits arrive and start their gruelling training, and Jeremy speaks to an instructor whose driving training saved his own son’s life in Afghanistan.
The first piece of equipment that Jeremy is introduced to is the Mastiff two – the Rolls Royce of the army’s transport fleet. It’s one of the most heavily armoured vehicles in active service and over 300 of these highly protective trucks have been sent out to Afghanistan this year. Jeremy meets Sergeant Major Darren Hugill who drives him in a Mastiff and shows exactly what the vehicle can do. He says: “What we’re going to do now is we’re actually going to go down what’s called the ‘one in three’ – which is a 30 degree ascent… The one we’ve got here is the knife edge so basically it’s just straight up and then straight back down again.”
The latest recruits joining 110 Squadron Royal Logistic Core have arrived at Leconfield for their driver training course. They have already passed their basic training together and now they have joined a unit dedicated to providing professional drivers for the frontline. The young recruits are met by Corporal Gemma Stonelake who takes them to their dormitories and outlines their daily chores. She says: “I am definitely the mother hen. I’ve got the best job in world, it’s brilliant. They’re all out there, giddy as owt but you know in three to four months time, they could be out in Afghan. The reality would have kicked in – actually they are doing a really dangerous driving job.”
Soon after their arrival, the new recruits have their first inspection, and it doesn’t go well. Corporal Stonelake explains their punishment: “They’ll be getting tomorrow night taken off them and it will keep going and going and going and even if it comes to the weekend, they’ll get the weekend taken off them.”
Jeremy meets Sergeant Simon Gill, an instructor at Leconfield, who taught his son Ben how to drive the Mastiff. His father’s training later saved Ben’s life in Afghanistan when an IED explosion hit the Mastiff he was in. Simon says: “Since that event, I’ve used it all the time [in training]. I’ve said I’ve got first hand experience of what capability this vehicle’s got. I’m not doing it from documents, I’m doing it from realistic issues that are happening in theatre.”
Talking about the explosion Ben says: “As soon as it happened, I was back to Camp Bastion. I thought you get chucked off a horse, you want to get back on it and straight away. I’ll go on the next job, straight back in the Mastiff.”
“I always say the family’s got the hardest tour staying at home. We’re going through a tour but they’re going through a harder tour than us.”
Jeremy joins the new recruits for their fitness assessment in the gym. It’s a gruelling physical test that they have to pass before they can begin driving and, for some of the recruits, it’s too difficult a challenge. After failing to pass her assessment Private Candice Fitzgerald says: “It just felt disappointing. I felt like I shouldn’t be in the army.”
But a few days later she’s able to retake the test and passes with encouragement from her fellow recruits. Watching her pass, Jeremy says: “There’s a real camaraderie and they’re in it together. There’ll be flaky moments and there are things that are scary. Yes they all said that their parents and families worry about they might go to Afghanistan but even at 17, you get the distinct impression they want to make something of their lives. They’re all in it together and with the training the army provides, they can get to where they want to get.”
Tuesday, 19 April 2011, 7:30PM – 8:00PM, ITV1