Largest Reserve Exercise takes place at Ballykilner Ranges

Over 120 reservists from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines came together on the Ballykilner Ranges, Northern Ireland, to take part in one of the largest Maritime Reserve exercises of the year.

This annual exercise, designed to provide enhanced training to the Naval Reservists as they prepare to support the Royal Navy on UK Defence operations at home and abroad, saw reservists from all over the north of the UK train in boat handling, force protection and leadership skills.

The exercise was hosted by HMS Hibernia, the RNR unit based in Lisburn, and they were joined by reservists from HMS Calliope, Ceres, Eaglet, Dalriada and Scotia and Royal Marine Reserves from the Belfast Detachment of RMR Scotland.

The reservists had to complete a number of tasks which developed their core maritime skills, whilst instilling team work that underpins the Royal Naval ethos. 

Not only do you learn new skills but you get to meet loads of new people and do things that you would not normally do in your civilian life.

Petty Officer Mike Bentley

The tasks included navigation in rigid inflatable boats in Dundrum Bay, judgemental shooting and rules of engagement training, force protection, crisis management, dynamic leadership in a rapidly changing environment, communications, first aid and command and control.

Commanding Officer of HMS Hibernia, Cdr Neil Downing, said: “This exercise is a great opportunity for people of all ranks and rates to gain valuable core maritime skills and general naval training.

“It is vital that Reservists develop these skills so they can seamlessly deploy with the Royal Navy in their specialist reservist roles as part of the whole force.

“It is vital that reservists have the skills to be able to deploy into any situation with their regular counterparts and fulfil an operationally effective role.”

A key serial of the weekend was the Force Protection exercise where the reservists were required to secure a base in a foreign, potentially hostile environment form which to evacuate British Citizens; a situation that has proven very real in the past. 

An escalating crisis unfolded which allowed the reservists to understand and enhance their patrolling skills, tested their command and control skills and how to protect themselves and the civilians.

The permanent staff from HMS Hibernia equipped with balaclavas, smoke grenades and blank ammunition provided a very real challenging problem for all.

Petty Officer Mike Bentley, a reservist engineer from HMS Ceres, said: “Weekends like this are great experiences.

“Not only do you learn new skills but you get to meet loads of new people and do things that you would not normally do in your civilian life.”

The reservists were joined by TalkRADIO presenter Paul Ross who broadcast his Saturday morning radio show from the exercise giving the reservists the opportunity to ‘talk’ about life in the Reserves on national radio.

You can catch the Reserves Ballykilner show on the TalkRADIO listen