IT is a source of immense pride for me that the British Army’s biggest base is located in Catterick Garrison.

I have visited the Garrison on numerous occasions and the dedication, professionalism and commitment of our Servicemen and women never ceases to impress me.

The importance of the Garrison is growing as it expands, both as a military base and as a major centre of population growth in our area.

Among the many units based there is the Infantry Training Centre (ITC) which I recently had the pleasure of visiting – seeing the facilities, meeting the recruits and the team running what is the largest Defence training establishment.

At any one time up to 2,000 recruits can be in training there.

The ITC is where every raw recruit or 16 to 17-year-old who has attended the Army Foundation College Harrogate begins their journey in the British Army.

As a training centre it is subject to inspection by Ofsted. Its current rating is outstanding.

As well as providing the basic training every soldier has to undergo, the centre provides specialist training for soldiers hoping to join elite forces like the Parachute Regiment.

P (Pegasus) Company runs the demanding All Arms Pre-Parachute Selection course designed to test physical fitness, determination and mental robustness under conditions of stress over three-and-half weeks. This determines whether an individual has the self-discipline and motivation required for service with airborne forces.

The course culminates in a gruelling “test week” which the candidates have to complete to earn the right to wear the coveted maroon beret.

In that week they tackle a range of tasks to test their strength and endurance under pressure, working as individuals and as a team.

These include a series of loaded marches with each candidate carrying 35lb plus water and weapon against the clock and over varying distances and country, the log race where eight individuals carry a 60kg log over a distance of 1.9 miles of undulating terrain, the cross-country steeplechase featuring a number of water obstacles followed by an assault course and something called Milling. This is 60 seconds of boxing – “controlled physical aggression” – against another candidate of similar height and weight.

It is a tough course with a significant drop-out rate as candidates are pushed to the limit. I understand why having tackled one very small part of it – the shuffle bars on the Trainasium – an aerial confidence course designed to test the candidate’s ability to overcome fear and carry out instructions at height.

Climbing 40ft up the scaffold structure and shuffling across the parallel scaffold poles was, frankly, pretty scary, but I was very happy – and relieved – to have completed it.

My admiration for those who complete the week is massive and I salute the team – many of them serving Parachute Regiment and 16 Air Assault Brigade members – who run the course.

The ITC has a worldwide reputation for producing some of the best infantry soldiers in the world and helps cement the British Army’s reputation for all-round excellence and effectiveness whatever challenge the nation asks it to tackle.