Royal Naval Reservists mission on the Dart

A Member of Parliament, a social worker and a clinical pharmacist were among a group of new entry Royal Naval Reservists (RNR) who swapped their lives as civilians to undertake a training mission on the River Dart.

The group of 11 young officers took to the water in picket boats and motor whalers, owned by Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC), for the final leadership exercise of their training.

Taking turns to act as the Commanding Officer, the Second-in-Command, the boat coxswain and crew, the group spent the weekend on the river where their command, leadership and management skills were assessed.

To make the exercise as realistic as possible the scenarios were based on current Royal Navy operations. In challenging weather conditions, the group were tasked to carry out reconnaissance missions, replenishment-at-sea operations and a number of other practical leadership tasks.

This was by far the most challenging exercise I’ve taken part in and you really felt that all the skills, knowledge and resilience you’d built up over training were being tested to the max.

A/SLt Penny Mordaunt, RNR

They faced mock attacks from small boats and were assessed throughout on the knowledge they had learnt during their two years of training.

To conclude, the crews were required to give a brief on the intelligence they had gleaned throughout the weekend in preparations for a fictitious amphibious assault.

Among the group was Acting Sub Lieutenant (A/SLt) Dom Simonis, a member of the Portsmouth based RNR unit HMS King Alfred, who, in civilian life works as a researcher.

He said: "Overall it was an excellent weekend’s training. Having such an immersive scenario was an exciting development to sequential practical leadership tasks, adding new challenges both as a leader and a team member.

"The main mission and numerous sub tasks were engaging but also relevant to activities we may be required to do in the Fleet.”

A/SLt Penny Mordaunt MP, who also belongs to HMS King Alfred, said: “This was by far the most challenging exercise I’ve taken part in and you really felt that all the skills, knowledge and resilience you’d built up over training were being tested to the max.”

The exercise known as the Final Leadership Exercise (FLEX) was designed by Lieutenant Simon Marsden RNR, an initial naval training officer from HMS President, in London. It is one of a number of enhancements made to the training programme for new RNR Officers.

In general RNR Officer Cadets carry out most of their training within their units. They also undergo a series of weekend training courses, a two week confirmation course at BRNC and two weeks at sea, known as Fleet Time.

A/SLt Phil Roberts, an environmental engineer from HMS Eaglet, the Liverpool RNR unit, said: "I really get the feeling the bar for RNR young officer training has been raised over the last few years and they’ve certainly broken new ground with the FLEX assessment.”

Lt Cdr Graeme Deighton, the Officer-in-Charge of FLEX, said: “The Cadets finished the exercise with beaming smiles and equipped with the confidence that they can perform effectively as courageous leaders with the spirit to fight and win.

"Their next challenge is their Fleet Boards, an oral assessment which will conclude their two years of Initial Officer Training. They will then progress onto their specialist training.”

The RNR is a part-time force of 2,300 trained men and women who are deployed with the Royal Navy in times of tension, humanitarian crisis, or conflict.

They may be civilian but Reservists wear the same uniform and do much of the same training as the Regulars.

The RNR is actively recruiting as part of the Future Reserves 2020 initiative, providing a Reserve Force that is an integral element of the Whole Force and to harness the widest pool of talent in the UK.

Further information on the RNR, Future Reserves 2020 and how to join is available here.