UK: HMS Atherstone Sailors on Final Stages of Training
The crew of the Hunt-class ship have been given seven weeks of intensive training to prepare them for their impending mission – training which culminates this week off Scotland alongside some 30 British and foreign warships.
Atherstone must be able to operate alone or as part of a NATO or coalition task group, across the full spectrum of naval operations, from her core mission of finding – and destroying mines – as her sister Brocklesby did off Libya last spring, to helping a vessel in distress or providing disaster relief.
“The ship’s programme has been demanding, but the ship’s company have worked extremely hard to achieve everything that was asked of them. By the time we arrived in the Clyde, I knew the ship was ready in all respects to conduct the pre-deployment training,” said Lt Jason Dawson, Atherstone’s Executive Officer.
Faslane is home to the ‘small ship’ wing of the Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) organisation, highly-respected around the world for delivering first-class naval training.
FOST assessments of the Crazy A’s ship’s company included their to various fires and floods, at sea and in harbour, as well as to hostile actions, such as armed intruders, or attack from improvised explosive devices, missiles and aircraft.
In addition to being a specialist in their own particular field such as mine warfare, diving, logistics, engineering or communications, every member of the ship’s company is a trained fire-fighter and over one-third of the team are first-aid qualified.
“We have to be prepared for all the situations thrown at us from FOST because in reality we could be encountering any one of them in real life,” explained Operations Officer Lt Jonny Campbell.
Further training scenarios focused on Atherstone’s ability to find mines and dispose of them safely.
After five weeks of that, the final phase of the Hunt-class ship’s training was testing her ability to work in a task group during the fortnight-long Joint Warrior exercise, where she joined fellow Hunt Brocklesby and Sandown-class minehunters Grimsby and Shoreham and Blyth in a dedicated minehunting flotilla which had to fend off sea and airborne attacks as well as perform the ‘day job’ of rooting out those underwater explosive devices.
As part of that task group exercises the ship’s company were also expected to show their muscle power; when exercise organisers simulated a break down of HMS Shoreham, Atherstone was called on to tow her.
With successful tow completed, all hands were summoned… and the 125-metre (410ft) towing hawser recovered – for in an age of technology, some methods which date back to Nelson’s day remain valid.
Naval Today Staff , April 30, 2012; Image: royalnavy