“Unbelievable!” That was the instant reaction of Army Reservist Antonio Comparetto when he pulled on the famous Commando green beret for the first time.
At 36, the Sapper from Bath-based 131 Commando Squadron Royal Engineers, had just become one of the oldest of soldiers to complete formidable Commando test – culminating in a 30-mile yomp across Dartmoor carrying a weapon and 30lbs of kit.
Ant, as he’s known to his Army mates, lives at Longwell Green, Bristol, and works as a warehouse manager for the Fighting Films Company, Fishponds.
At 17, he wanted to join the Army – “but my Mum wouldn’t sign the necessary paperwork.” So eventually, three years ago, he joined the Army Reserve.
“It was a matter of wanting to experience Army life before it was too late,” he explained. “I needed to get fitter and more switched on. Apart from actually being accepted on the Commando course, one of the biggest challenges has involved balancing my training, work and family life.”
The 30-miler, which had to be completed in less than eight hours, rounded off an intense period of training, with Army Reservists striving for their green berets alongside Regular and Reserve counterparts from the Royal Marines. An exhausting week on field exercise had been followed by four more gruelling days featuring:
- a nine-mile speed march inside 90 minutes carrying full fighting order
- a six-mile endurance course through rough terrain including tunnels, wading pool and an underwater culvert, followed by a four-mile run home and marksmanship test.
- the ‘Tarzan’ assault course, ending in a rope climb up a 30ft near-vertical wall – in full kit.
Antonio was one of several Reservists from 131 Commando Squadron to earn their green berets, including Sapper Toby Huckle, 35, also from 302 Troop in Bath.
The berets were presented by Brigadier Richard Spencer, Deputy Commandant General, Royal Marines, who said: “You have all just completed a remarkable achievement and join a very special organisation as qualified members of the Army Commandos – something no one can ever take from you.”
131 Commando Squadron is the Reserve sub-unit of 24 Commando Regiment Royal Engineers, with headquarters at Kingsbury in north London and other detachments in Plymouth (300 Troop), and Birmingham (301 Troop).
The Squadron has deployed worldwide to provide combat engineer support to 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, and is one of the most travelled units in the Army Reserve.
Commando Engineers are trained in amphibious warfare, as well as how to operate in jungle, desert, mountains and extreme cold. As Sappers they are trained in a wide variety of engineer skills, such as bridging, demolition, obstacle crossing, route denial, construction and infrastructure support.