HMS Albion’s Royal Marines exercise with Brunei forces

Royal Marines Commandos based on the UK’s flagship HMS Albion have demonstrated what they could do working with Brunei’s forces should they ever be required in this part of the world.

With helicopters flying low overhead, landing craft from HMS Albion put commandos and Viking armoured vehicles on to the beach. The ‘enemy’ position was rapidly secured in a demonstration of the close co-operation between the armed forces of Brunei and the United Kingdom.

The joint exercise – Setia Kawan (Malay for ‘Loyal Friend’) – took place in front of His Majesty Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum – the Sultan of Brunei – and the UK’s second most senior naval officer, Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Ben Key.

As well as comprehensive briefings aboard the Plymouth-based warship from senior officers, the sultan also met the exercise’s participants.

“What a fantastic experience – I got to shake hands with His Majesty The Sultan of Brunei. It has been a hoofing [awesome] deployment,” said Marine Sean Phipps, aged 26, from Aberdeen who is serving aboard Albion with 40 Commando.

What a fantastic experience – I got to shake hands with His Majesty The Sultan of Brunei. It has been a hoofing deployment

Marine Sean Phipps, 40 Commando Royal Marines

After months away from the UK, Major Alex Nixon RM, in charge of Charlie Company, 40 Commando, said Setia Kawan demonstrated that his men remained the tip of the spear.

“Being held at contingency means being ready: ready for operations, globally,” said the 34-year-old officer from Leicester.

“This exercise has proven the capabilities and versatility of the assets poised on HMS Albion – the ability to operate in a joint environment with a partner nation, and to deliver strategic and tactical effect.”

His Company Sergeant Major, Sergeant Nick Macfarlane, added, “This has been a great opportunity to demonstrate the ability of the Royal Marines to provide punch from the sea, onto the land.”

This was the third in the Setia Kawan series of exercises going back 21 years to veteran assault ship HMS Fearless, and again in 2009, with helicopter assault ship HMS Ocean.

“Engaging with key allies and partners in the region is exactly why the ship’s company and Royal Marines of HMS Albion are operating in the Asia Pacific region,” said Albion’s Commanding Officer Captain Tim Neild.

“The UK remains committed to the peace, security and prosperity of the region and we are very much looking forward to an opportunity to return in the future.”

Albion is into the final third of a nine-month deployment to the Pacific Rim. Having most recently spent an extended period in Japan and after paying a rare visit by the Royal Navy to Vietnam, the ship is gearing up for the most important military exercise of the autumn in the Middle East, Saif Sareea III, which begins next month.