NAVY NEWS, MARCH 2011
SO WHAT’S it like being a rookie offi cer aboard the nation’s fl agship in the middle of a Thursday
War? It’s not a question we’re often
asked... but as it has been, luckily we have 50 Officer Cadets from Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth on hand to provide the answer.
The rocked up to HMS Albion in Devonport for their first sustained period of life at sea. Initial Fleet Time introduces cadets to life in an operational warship,
members of the ship’s company. They join a warship after 14
weeks’ training at the alma mater of the officer corps – it can mean slipping into a plush Far East deployment, or joining a task force in the USA such as last summer’s Auriga exercises... ...or it can mean ‘mini OST’. Off Plymouth. In the middle of winter.
Flagship Albion will be
leading this year’s key task group deployment, Cougar 11 – an amphibious force exercising in the Mediterranean and east of Suez. To brush away the cobwebs which have built up since her return from Auriga, some Directed Continuation Training (that ‘mini OST’) had been lined up for the
assault ship, in company with HMS Sutherland – her escort for Cougar (see page 10). In fact life aboard Albion began quite gently for the offi cer cadets from Daring and Dauntless Divisions. They arrived in Devonport as the ship’s company returned from Christmas leave and had two weeks to get to know the 18,000-tonne warship (with three times as many compartments as crew...) before she began that training.
serving alongside all
“The overriding theme on Initial Fleet Time is ‘get stuck in’ and the cadets have certainly done that so far,” explained Cdr Paul Murphy,
bonus.” “DCT has just been an added
By the time you read this, the cadets will be about to bid farewell to Albion (and hence miss her big deployment) to return to Dartmouth for the fi nal four weeks of Initial Offi cer Training. By common consensus the
cadets’ week with 6 Assault Squadron Royal Marines, Albion’s own commando unit, proved by far the most popular of the ‘shadowing’ tasks they were given. The fl edgling offi cers
Commander Logistics. As for getting stuck in, well the
budding offi cers joined Albion’s fi refi ghting teams, handled ropes at harbour stations, hosed down the jetty, played at being casualties for the ship’s medics to patch up, assisted night-time replenishments at sea and shadowed the offi cers of the watch inter alia. “It’s a once-in-a-career
opportunity for new offi cers to learn fi rst-hand about life as a sailor as well as what is expected from them when they reach the wardroom,” said Albion’s XO Cdr Nick Washer.
cadets attended lectures on the role of Royal Marines in Afghanistan and got hands-on experience with the weaponry and vehicles used by 6ASRM during a beach assault. And just to keep the OCs on their toes, many of the green berets volunteered to organise regular PT and team building exercises for the young offi cers. Accompanying the cadets throughout their ten weeks on Albion are three staff from Dartmouth – including a (shock horror) pongo: Capt Shane Green
establishing road blocks. Back onboard the mother ship,
worked alongside the Royal Marines as they deployed in their landing craft in testing sea conditions staying out overnight conducting recces,
of the Mercian Regiment (also Albion’s affi liated Army unit) is on exchange at BRNC as a divisional officer. “It’s been very enlightening taking my cadets through their Initial Fleet Time,” he said. “I have been learning just as much as them.
“Being on board has been really good so far. The food is great and much better than BRNC [Shh, don’t tell them – Ed], although the queue is always massive,” said OC Henry Marriner, proving the old adage that an army marches on its stomach. “I’ve now got used to sleeping
in a tiny bed, which is sandwiched in between two other beds and is half way up the wall.” Ah, happy days...
■ With Albion preparing for
Cougar, the ship was visited by senior offi cers, including the man who will lead the force.
The new Commander UK
Maritime Forces, Rear Admiral Duncan Potts, and his deputy Cdre Simon Ancona joined the ship to discuss the impending deployment with the ship’s com- mand team – as did Cdre John Kingwell, Commander UK Task Group.
The latter and his amphibious staff will move aboard Albion after Easter to direct the deployment.
Pictures: LA(Phot) Luron Wright, HMS Albion
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