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Tough challenge for Admiralty Boarding party A!

candidates do. You can see it in their eyes, the ten- sion in the clasped hands, the agitated

staccato of tapping feet. And really, the Admiralty Interview

S THE classic Monty Python sketch says: "Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition!" .But the problem is the

Board's remit is to provide a suitable short- list of applicants to be considered for selec- tion as Royal Navy or Royal Marine offi- cers.

Board don't deserve this. Of the four peo- ple, three of them have been through the Board themselves and the civilian fourth is there to offer access to the non-military mind. They all want the process to be as pain-free and fair as possible. No one is pretending this is easy. The

through the Admiralty Interview Board every year, and only half will be recommended for commission.

Over 1,400 candidates come

year olds. Over half of the candidates com- peting for the board are over 21. On top of that, about 20 per cent of applicants are from within the Navy or trying to join the Reserves. The Board consists of the president, a

service officer and a personnel selection officer - all RN or RM; with an education adviser from the civilian world. The Navy is the only one of the three Services that gives this civilian an equivalent say to his or her military compatriots in the final deci- sion.

ple with the potential to become good Naval or Marine officers, to survive the rigours of training at Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth or

Ultimately, the AIB are looking for peo-

results of two days of testing are refined to four final categories: effective intellect; leadership potential; character and per- sonality; and Service motivation. Each has a bearing in the final assessment. Naturally the Commando requirement

Commando Training Centre Lympstone. So what does make a good officer? The

the And it isn't just groups of nervous 18 designed to get throug Board - everythin ng

me about Miss Brown" - these interview questions are a chance to put forward any- thing that candidates think has been missed, but in all honesty, not much is. The Board has heard most things in

"What sort of chap is Mr Smith?'", "Tell igh to the real you. encountered is

their time. One candidate when asked his inspirational hero cheerfully replied: "Spiderman"! These interviews take place on the final

the first day. Welcome briefs and a chance to mingle with fellow candidates are the main opportunity, with a long-detailed questionnaire that allows each applicant to sell himself or herself to the Navy. The next day is principally taken up with

day of the Boarding process, and a range of carefully-monitored written, discussion and physical tests have led up to this point. Candidates arrive in the early evening of

their eyes, and a slight sense of confusion as they try to figure out what went wrong. But undaunted they try again. Success in the gym tasks is not about cross- ing the water, it's about the interaction - the command and control, the teamwork and support, the problem-solving and planning.

achieved but none the wetter. There's disappointment


nothing in

the social dynamics at piay, leader- ship can be more clearly displayed in the response to adversity - a rush to blame or a quick word of encouragement and advice.

A swift crossing tells little about

tests in verbal and non-verbal reasoning, numeracy, speed and accuracy, and spatial orientation designed by Human Factor experts from the field of defence science. These puzzles arc accompanied by tasks

of essay-writing, and checks on general and Service knowledge.

tasks the next day. The gym task is a some- what troubling experience that requires self, team-mates and several bulky bits of kit to be transferred safely across a mocked-up chasm or river. In the high-roofed, echoing gym hall,

Jhe reward for a morning with heads buried in written tests is to spend the rest of the day practising hard to be ready for the dreaded gym and discussion

adds one further element to the mix - physique. Before even setting foot across the front doorstep of the AIB, aspiring Marines must pass the Potential Officers Course, a tough, physical endurance test that looks for drive and determination to match Royal Marine Commandos out fighting in the world today. Similarly, potential aircrew must pass

the demanding Flying Aptitude Tests at Cranwell before attending the AIB. The tests and challenges of the AIB are

a chance to stretch mental and physical muscles and to show who the candidate really is. And it's not a good idea to try to fake a new character for the sake of the

tank three youths dressed in brightly-coloured jackets and numbered hard-hats stand perilously on a wooden plank balanced on two blocks. Despite one lad's best

stops actively helping when not the leader, this is all noted by the circling Board - teamwork means caring about the task even when not the one directing, and the Navy is all about teamwork. Problem-solving is also tested in the non-physical arena. The discussion exer- cise sets up a fictitious scenario featuring the likes of broken limbs, lost children and adverse weather. After brief preparation the team have to

And if someone dips their head and

discuss the most effective means to resolve the situation - and any suggestion offered is just one of countless solutions, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. A storm of quick-fire questions buffets

the dark reflective surface of the pool is broken up by little waves from the tremors shaking it. In the middle of the water

panion's questioning, results in a blank. This risk may seem harsh, but in an opera- tional situation, 200 lives may depend on the ability to concentrate.

the candidates - quick-thinking is needed for the endless list of "who?", "when?", "how far?", "how many?". A slip of focus, distraction from a com-


NAVY NEWS, MAY 2002 17

The connection between aspiring Naval officers and two short planks may not be immediately apparent - but there's a definite knack to crossing a pool of water safely using some bits of wood and swinging ropes. And it's a good judge for the Admiralty Interview Board of teamwork, problem-solving and leadership - essentials for a Royal Navy officer.

safely back to their original starting point

• Carefully watched by team-mates, an AIB candidate builds a bridge above the pool

mathematics; clenched hands move from desk to lap to desk in response to individ- ual successes.

speed-time-distance AJ

Eyes flick left and right as tired brains desperately rattle through their bottom drawers to recall

^JL J^-i-

Navy - without fully understanding that you are signing up for the Naval life. Learn about the Service in full before

dvice to candidates is very simple - whatever you do, be prepared. Don't go into these interviews - in fact, don't ,-even consider joining the

you even consider applying. Research the different branches and the very specific skills and abilities required for each. Look at where the Navy is based around the UK and around the world, and find out about the ships in which you will serve. The Navy is not a life to sign up for on a

tial that's assessed. The various stresses and tests are designed to get at who the applicants are and could be, rather than who they are taught to be. In some ways it is hardest for the Upper and Corps Commission

Candidates - ratings and other ranks who are trying to climb several rungs of the pro- motion ladder to become officers. They have spent a number of years with-


in the Service and have to break habits of reticence and authority to push forward to shine before the Captain president.

whim, and a half-hearted interest is easily exposed under questioning. The unexpect- ed presence of a "Type 24" frigate can play havoc with the Service motivation score of an unprepared candidate. Candidates need to appreciate the role

ness and flexibility of the system. The process is designed to deal with any differ- ences in schooling, cultural or social back- grounds. The lad who lives with his mother in a small farm in the Northern Isles of

of the modern Navy, and that world events impact on everyday Service life. Life in the Royal Navy means that you become part of these global operations - with all the responsibility that entails. The AIB justly prides itself on the fair-

there is no guarantee of entry to the Service - places in the different branches are demand-led, so limit- ed numbers of places are available for eager candidates.

Once the AIB has been passed,

Once aspiring officers have reached Britannia Royal Naval College, over 90 per cent stick the course. The rigours of the AIB process ensure that this success rate through BRNC remains high. Everyone who wishes to become an offi-

Scotland has as much chance to shine as the young lady whose military father has sent her to Cheltenham Ladies College. It is potential that's needed, and poten-

the benchmark for modern management selection techniques.

cer in the Royal Navy is required to attend the AIB. The process has not changed sig- nificantly for over 40 years, a testament to its robustness and effectiveness. And this is an authoritative claim - visitors from the commercial world regularly sit in to watch the selection process in action. The Royal Navy has and continues to set

efforts to contain his nerves, the shakes are being trans- ferred down through his legs, through his feet to the wood below. And now they're all rocking in time to this internal metronome. To general amazement, eventually all three return

• The problems of crossing a chasm with an oil drum using only two planks and several swinging ropes

1 Candidates tackle the discussion exercise, closely watched by the members of the Admiralty Interview Board

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