Welsh reservist steps up for Covid 19 response

Reservists have been helping in the battle against coronavirus by swapping their regular sailor duties to support the Royal Navy’s response to the pandemic.

Lieutenant Rhys Thomas, an Amphibious Warfare (AW) Officer, normally based at HMS Cambria has for the past four-and-half months been mobilised as part of the COVID-19 crisis.

Rhys, from Cardiff, was called upon in April to deploy on Operation Broadshare, supporting the British Overseas Territories response to COVID-19. He subsequently was held at very high readiness, ready to deploy with amphibious platforms for a number of weeks, but ultimately wasn’t called on to move to the Caribbean.

He is now working at the heart of Navy Command Headquarters in Portsmouth as a staff officer in a supporting role within the navy’s COVID-19 Response Cell, preparing briefs for senior officers and getting a greater understanding of how and why the Royal Navy works.

“It’s been a whirlwind year for me so far,” said Rhys.

“The days can be long and pretty full on at times, but also magnificent in the exposure I’m getting to the wider Royal Navy and how things happen at such a high level.”

It’s been a whirlwind year for me so far. The days can be long and pretty full on at times, but also magnificent in the exposure I’m getting to the wider Royal Navy and how things happen at such a high level.

Lieutenant Rhys Thomas

Moving around the country during his mobilisation - the procedure the armed forces uses to call out reserves when needed – Rhys was for some time based in London at the Maritime Operation Cell (MOC) at Northwood before his move to the Naval Command HQ on South Coast of England.

“My task at the MOC was initially as a Battle Watch Captain, conducting daily briefings as well as drafting and providing insight, analysis and technical responses across the Navy, on requests for information. It has since extended to supporting the creation of procedures and assisting in the development of strategic Navy Policy and engagement.

“I’ve forged some really strong links with my regular service counterparts, and significantly deepened my understanding of Joint Operations and seen the higher level of organisations inside the Headquarters, than I would ever would have done.”

Lt Rhys Thomas is a member of HMS Cambria, the Royal Navy’s only Maritime Reserves Unit in Wales. The Royal Navy Reserve train to the same standard as their regular counterparts and are mobilised into service in support of defence needs at home and abroad. Rhys is one of five Cambrian Reservists mobilised directly in support the of COVID-19 Response; around 40 Cambrians volunteered to mobilise at this time of need. 

HMS Cambria last week moved into a new multi-million pound dedicated training facility at the heart of Cardiff Bay. In his role as Divisional Officer for around ten Junior and Senior Rates and the Unit’s Command, Leadership and Management Development Officer (CLMDO)

Rhys describes the new facility as “exceptional”. He added: “The investment made by the navy in the Maritime Reserve in Wales shows they are committed to developing its people while furthering the operational support offered to the Royal Navy. The classrooms, gym and mess facilities are the best on offer anywhere in the Maritime Reserve, and probably beyond.” 

In his time as a reservist, Rhys has organised and completed a number of Adventurous Training (AT) evolutions, run in the Brickwood’s Field Gun Competition twice, qualified and Mountain Leader and undertaken specialist training across the UK and abroad. Joining the reserves offers so much, getting paid to train, advance and develop while serving your Nation and contributing back to society regardless of whether you’re a lifelong reservist or an ex-regular looking to re-join via project Firefly.