Reservists on the Rock as sailors gain vital skills to support global ops

Topic: PeopleReserves Storyline: Training

Reservists hit the waters of the Rock making use of the RN’s Gibraltar Squadron to enhance their seafaring skills.

Ten coxswains and bowmen, accompanied by Maritime Reserves Headquarters training staff, integrated with the squadron, making use of its Pacific 24 boats.

The squadron – comprising two new fast patrol boats, HMS Dagger and Cutlass and several Pacific 24 sea boats – is one of the busiest units in the Navy, on the water daily, operating in narrow waters and what can be challenging geo-political conditions.

The squadron is charged with protecting major RN and allied vessels visiting the naval base and protecting the integrity of British Gibraltar Territorial Waters – and regularly draws some of its personnel from the Royal Naval Reserve.

The visitors possessed a range of experience between them from recently-qualified bowmen who’d not been back in a seaboat since their courses, through to veteran coxswains with years of service at sea under their belts looking to refresh.

Not 30 minutes after arriving in the Med, the reservists were on the water – setting the pace for a busy week of training.

The Reservists used the mornings to refresh their basic drills, such as confined manoeuvring, man overboard exercises and coastal navigation techniques.

And then the afternoons saw the Pacific 24s joined by Dagger for pacing drills, practising the skill of coming alongside a ship on the move.

As well as skills on the water, the Reservists also had an opportunity to conduct leadership and seamanship briefs, as well as take in some of the historical sites around Gibraltar.

At the end, the team were qualified either to mobilise to join the five River-class ships deployed around the globe on ops – or be drafted to the Gibraltar Squadron.

Around one in six personnel serving with the squadron is a Reservist, so Lieutenant Henry Kilby,  HMS Dagger’s Commanding Officer, said the team were only too glad to support their training.

“To ensure that our Reservists are ready to mobilise, there’s no better training than at sea alongside Regular shipmates. We train as we fight – and that is together,” he said.

“To any onlooker, you would never know the difference - Reservists do the same job as their Regular counterparts and wear the same uniform; I could not achieve my mission without them. I am delighted that we have this relationship with the general warfare team to deliver training weeks for seaboat coxswains.”

The training was witnessed by the Commander Maritime Reserves, Commodore Jo Adey, who also caught up with the full-time Reservists currently assigned to the Gib Squadron.

“It’s been really beneficial to see and hear first-hand how Reservists are making a difference here in Gibraltar,” she said.

“Reservists filling full-time roles in the squadron, or deploying to sea as integral and integrated members of an Offshore Patrol Ship’s crew, is part of the reason the Reserve exists.

“I am always impressed by the way Reservists quickly become part of the team, but just as much by how obvious it is that the Reservist’s contribution is valued both by the Reservist but also their full-time commanders at sea.”

It’s the fourth time that the squadron has hosted this training and the commodore hopes it will be a calendar fixture long into the future to the benefit of all.

“Coming to Gibraltar means we can maximise the time spent on the water as well as practise operating alongside a warship, and in an operational environment,” she added.

“In just a few short days, the Reservists gained valuable experience in boat handling and increased their confidence as coxswains. The opportunity to take the knowledge and skills developed on courses and Royal Naval Reserves sea training weekends and put the theory into practice can’t be underestimated. 

“I’m very grateful to everyone at the Royal Navy Gibraltar Squadron for their ongoing support in helping us to develop this package.”

To any onlooker, you would never know the difference - Reservists do the same job as their Regular counterparts and wear the same uniform; I could not achieve my mission without them.

Lieutenant Henry Kilby, HMS Dagger