UK: New Approach to Royal Naval Reserve Officer Initial Naval Training

New Approach to Royal Naval Reserve Officer Initial Naval Training

Junior officer training in the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) is undergoing a major transformation that will better prepare junior officers for the challenges of command, leadership and management that they can expect in their Reserve careers in the years ahead.

A new more rigorous version of the RNR Officer Initial Naval Training course at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth ran for the first time last spring, with a second course following in September. Over a chilly 16-day period from February to March, nine Officer Cadets from RNR units across the country successfully completed the third instance of the course and have now passed onto the next stage of their officer training.

With a stated mission “to deliver courageous leaders with the spirit to fight and win”, Lieutenant Commander Graeme Deighton RNR, Resource Development Manager at British Standards Institute outside of his reserve duties, is overseeing the changes to the RNR Junior Officer training programme.

Graeme said;

“This is certainly not a course for the faint hearted, but I’m pleased to say that all of this intake’s cadets passed.”

“This only highlights the high fitness levels and general preparations of these Officer Cadets in the months before they arrived at Dartmouth. My team and I can be hard task masters, I know, but I’m sure they all realise now that it was not without purpose.”

With much of the new course run alongside the training of their Regular counterparts, the RNR course covered everything from sea sense and maritime skills on the River Dart through to gruelling combat skills, field craft and land navigation training by Royal Marine instructors at Okehampton Battle Camp on Dartmoor.

Graeme explained:

“The physical nature of the course aimed to take the cadets to their personal limits, and beyond, during which we tested them continuously for the command and leadership skills that will be expected of them as commissioned naval officers.

“Everything we asked of them had a definite purpose, even if they couldn’t always see it at the time. I hope they all feel better in themselves for passing this course on their first attempt. It is a major achievement and they all deserve to feel very proud of themselves both as individuals and as a team.”

The RNR cadets passed out of the naval college as Acting Sub Lieutenants on Sunday 10 March in the presence of their families. In a formal ceremony in the heart of the historic college they were presented with their new Sub Lieutenant stripes by Captain Jerry Kyd RN, Commanding Officer of Britannia Royal Naval College.

Acting Sub Lieutenant Debbie Willis, from London unit HMS President and in civilian life Government Relations Manager at Hewlett Packard, was one of the February intake. Debbie summed up the feelings of the nine reservists:

“We all went into this course with a great deal of trepidation. Although we had certainly trained hard beforehand, nothing could have prepared us for what the Marine instructors had in store. Our team was strong though, and we got each other through.”

At the start of the course the reservists were asked to come up with a team mission. Debbie explained;

“We all agreed that we wanted to pass not just as individuals but, more importantly, as a team. And that’s just what we did!”

Ahead of them now lies further training as they proceed towards their Fleet Board examinations in a year’s time. Some of this will be back at the naval college, with command, leadership and management training becoming a regular part of the life of a reservist.

On passing Fleet Board they will be commissioned as confirmed Sub Lieutenants and will then join RNR branches to commence their specialisation training.

There are currently three RNR courses run at the naval college annually. With their full time counterparts taking 30 weeks to reach Fleet Board, the average duration for reservists to achieve the same standard in their spare time is two years.

This includes a mixture of in-unit, weekend and personal training, in addition to their Dartmouth course and a period at sea in a warship.

Course participants: Officer Cadets Andrew Bailey (HMS Forward, Birmingham), Ross Bevan (HMS Eaglet, Liverpool), Laura Cox (HMS King Alfred, Portsmouth), Chris Hawkins (HMS Scotia, Rosyth), Chris Houlston (HMS Forward, Birmingham), Jimmy Lemkes (HMS Forward, Birmingham), Phil Roberts (HMS Eaglet, Liverpool), Stuart Roberts (HMS Forward, Birmingham) and Debbie Willis (HMS President, London).

The Royal Naval Reserve is recruiting nationally under the slogan “Life Without Limits”. Candidates need to be physically fit British, Irish or Commonwealth citizens aged between 16 and 40 (or 45 with previous naval or military experience).

Naval Today Staff, April 23, 2013; Image: Royal Navy