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A new dawn for freedom

THE place? Al Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Baghdad. The date? Wednesday September 1 2010. The occasion? The formal end of combat operations in Iraq. The arm? Well, that belongs to Cdre Tony Radakin RN, Commander Task Force Iraq Maritime.

RM. And the man behind the camera? Liaison officer Maj Dave Fielder

The two Senior Service officers were among a handful of Britons who witnessed the historic occasion as Operation Iraqi Freedom – which began more than seven years ago to oust Saddam Hussein’s regime and then faced a bitter insurgency – passed into history and Operation New Dawn, a purely training and advisory mission, took its place. Britain’s combat mission in Iraq ended long before that of US

forces, but not its training role – principally conducted by sailors and Royal Marines (and unlike the Americans we’ve stuck with the Operation Telic covername.) Aside from the two aforementioned officers there’s Royal Marine

Brigadier Tim Chicken in charge of the Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission (Navy) – ITAM-Navy – which oversees the UK/US team training Iraq’s Navy and Marines. As New Dawn began, so 33 marine engineers filed through the gates of the Iraqi Naval Base at Umm Qasr – the first to do so in years. All are already engineers. It’s the task of the ITAM team to turn

● The Village People fan club proved a big hit... Clubz LPT Higgins leads Somerseters through circuits with the sun setting in the northern Gulf There’s no gain witho

civvy engineers into naval engineers in 14 weeks under the guidance of USN and RN engineers like Lt Cdr Helen Ashworth (she kept HMS Illustrious going a couple of years ago during a challenging deployment east of Suez for the old carrier – as you might recall from the first series of Warship). “The engineers on the course hold the key to the future success of the Iraqi Navy,” she says emphatically. “Not only must we train them to be good engineering officers, capable of upholding good engineering standards – but we must also train them to become the trainers of tomorrow – delivering similar training to new recruits of the future.” So no pressure there then for trainer, or trainee... The Iraqis will be split into PEOs (Platform Engineer Officers – able to deal with marine, weapons and sensors engineering); WSO (Weapon and Sensors Engineer Officers – self-explanatory) and ELOs (no jokes please... Electrical Engineer Officers, again self-explanatory). This is the first time the Iraqi Navy has trained specialists in these areas – vital with the leap in technology which its new Swift patrol boats embrace. The first of these 114ft, 35+kt craft has just arrived in the region and crew are being trained up. Their training involves four weeks of militarisation, five weeks of branch-specific education, four weeks of deep specialist training (including ‘work placement’ which, for the electrical engineers means time aboard RFA Cardigan Bay), and finally a week of management training and exams.

“The students are doing well so far,” says Lt Cdr Ashworth. “They are engaged, keen to learn, and scribble furiously in their notebooks. “The madrassa (school house) is buzzing, and the constant sound of marching as the students move between lessons has brought the base to life and really focussed the efforts of us all.” ITAM in its various guises (NATT – Naval Transition Team – is probably its most well-known incarnation) has been running since the earliest days of the post-Saddam era. It’s due to run until at least the end of 2011, by which time the Iraqi Navy will take over responsibility for protecting its assets and shores in the northern Gulf.

THE pain was provided by HMS Somerset’s clubz, LPT Higgins, and his demanding daily fi tness

ultimate rest and recuperation destination in this part of the world – for the frigate’s 180 men and women. The Type 23 enjoyed her

‘operational stand down’ – a fortnight of much-needed maintenance

much-needed rest for her crew after weeks of defence watches. Since deploying from Devonport in May,

has divided her time east of Suez for the ship and Somerset

regime in the Gulf heat. And the gain? Two weeks in Dubai – the

between providing security at sea in the central and northern Gulf and providing protection to the Al Basrah Oil Terminal with Combined Task Force (CTF) 152 (which embraces the entire Gulf from the Strait of Hormuz) and CTF Iraqi Maritime (supporting Iraq’s navy and marines to defend the oil platforms and waters). That’s punishing work for man and machine in high summer – temperatures in the northern Gulf reach 45˚C (115˚F) in July and August and rarely drop below 29˚C (85˚F).

provided an excellent opportunity to conduct vital maintenance of the ship’s weapons, sensors and machinery,

So the stand-down in Dubai replenish her

stores, and the ship’s company to recharge batteries before returning to patrolling the Arabian Gulf.

As soon as Somerset was secured alongside in Port Rashid, Dubai – slap bang in the centre of the emirate – contractors from both the UK and the UAE fi led on board to provide engineering assistance and to improve the condition of the ship’s upper deck. To help coordinate the

best possible value for money. Thanks to the work package – and the efforts of the ship’s company (it wasn’t R&R for everyone in Dubai...) the superstructure is now in excellent condition. Those

work on the upper deck, a team of two from Superintendent Fleet Maintenance Devonport provided invaluable support and ensured the local painters provided the

tallest building standing some 826m (2,710ft – or half a mile) high, and the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel (shaped like the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth but a tad posher...).

Not a few decamped to the emirate’s many hotels or toured the Burj Khalifa, the world’s

who did have plenty of downtime flew out friends

and Somerseters family. Fox sees Seafox as mine fo

THEY may have stealth fi ghters, unmanned drones by the dozen, smart bombs, but for all their fancy military hardware, there’s one piece of kit the Americans don’t have. So step in the Royal Navy to demonstrate the potency of Seafox, its remote-controlled underwater rover which proves rather effective at disposing of mines. Britain’s

s, y

forces – HM Ships Chidding- fold, Middleton, Pembroke and

Gulf minehunting

Grimsby, plus mother ship RFA Lyme Bay – linked up with their American counterparts for ten days of working-up in the warm, shallow, busy, and invari- ably murky waters of the Gulf. Four Avenger-class minehunters (which are con- siderably larger than the UK’s Hunts and Sandowns) depart- ed Bahrain with the Brits for Bilat 10 (Bilateral 2010), a heady mix of locating mines,

A t t

- s

blowing things up (always the best bit), force protection, navi- gational manoeuvres, div- ing training, rafting up – basically all the things you’d expect of a mine warfare task group,


– s

m g

Part of the war games was observed by the senior Allied naval offi cer in the region,

David Bence, Commander UK Mine Counter- measures Force.

the direction of the

UK’s all

under Cdr

the US Navy’s Vice Admiral Mark Fox in charge of Fifth Fleet in Bahrain.

proceedings from Chidding- fold’s

centre’ (aka operations room) ‘combat

He joined the Cheery Chid, where Lt Cdr Adam Northover and his ship’s company demonstrated what Seafox can do; the submersible was dis- patched by the Hunt with a live round and det- onated a simulated target. The US admiral watched

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