The crew of a Royal Navy warship has been rewarded for their excellence while on counter-drugs patrol in the Caribbean.
Commodore Paul Halton, who commands the Devonport-based fleet of ships and submarines, visited HMS Argyll at HM Naval Base Devonport for an award ceremony recognising the many successes of the ship during deployments involving in anti-drugs operations to disaster relief and defence diplomacy during high profile regional engagements.
The ship’s Physical Training Instructor Sam Sims was awarded the Tony Tyrwhitt-Bettridge Trophy as top PTI in the Royal Navy’s for his activities while deployed – including organising sporting events in a variety of countries and generally keeping the sailors fit in the less than ideal surrounding of a warship at sea.
The above water warfare team was recognised for its contribution to HMS Argyll’s counter-narcotics operations where they provided force protection support to the US Coast Guard during a number of boarding operations, which in total recovered nearly 1,900 kilos – or £77m – of cocaine.
The team was also a very visible face of the Royal Navy, arranging the ship’s guard of honour for 23 appearances. This included providing the ceremonial backdrop during a visit to Columbia where His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales hosted the Colombian President as well as the Chief of Defence Staff, the Heads of fighting arms and representatives from UK Trade and Investment.
Such was the impression made by HMS Argyll’s ceremonial guard whilst deployed that they were requested to enhance the events surrounding the 200th anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner during a visit to Baltimore.
Chief Petty Officer Jon Oliver received the honour and keen to recognise the part that the whole ship played in achieving his team’s commendation. Hailing from Redruth, Jon said: “Throughout a very busy period the positive attitude of the ship’s company in all we have been asked to do has been excellent.’’
The seamanship area led by Petty Officer Lee Noak was commended for its operation of the ship’s sea boats during a number of demanding counter-narcotic boarding operations. Lee, from Birmingham, said: “This had been a hard, but really satisfying period. To receive this recognition is icing on the cake”.
One particular boarding involved a covert, high-speed chase of a suspect vessel at night, relying on the skill and bravery from the crews of both sea boats to remain in pursuit of a darkened and violently manoeuvring vessel, eventually forcing it to stop and submit to the boarding. The team were further praised for their contribution to HMS Argyll’s demanding defence engagement programme.
HMS Argyll created an outreach team to co-ordinate the ship’s international defence engagement activities, ranging from humanitarian aid and disaster relief to foreign port visits, in order to enhance the UK’s standing and influence in the region.
Commodore Halton recognised this team’s achievements which included rejuvenating military relations with Mexico, Dominican Republic, Columbia and Cuba via engagement at sea, onboard, and on the sports field.
Lieutenant Commander Ian Bailey, of Plymouth, said: “It is always difficult to measure the effect of information activity; however, our team worked in a coordinated fashion both onboard and with external authorities. This, in turn, ensured the effect of our efforts was enhanced and we had a significant positive impact on the UK’s relations with key partner nations. To have such success and to be recognised for it is obviously immensely pleasing for all involved.”
In Bermuda, following Hurricane Gonzalo the team co-ordinated delivery of disaster relief operations. Feedback from three ambassadors, three separate defence attaches, one consul general and the HM Governor to Bermuda reported the positive impact which HMS Argyll had on the region.
Leading Physical Trainer Sam Sims, of Brixham, Devon, received an award for the individual within the Navy who has made most significant contribution to preparing the crew physically for their deployment. He organised 25 formal sporting fixtures as well as cycling, scuba diving and other adventurous training activities and coaching sport to young people in UK overseas territories with sponsorship he secured from the English FA.
The award citation said he was a superb ambassador for the RN and UK in taking redundant sports kits to donate to teams in countries with little money. The gift of a rugby kit to a Mexican team who were in dire need of one was both a kind sportsmanlike gesture, but also typical of the positive impression HMS Argyll left on the region.
Information Activity and Outreach Team
Rear L-R: Lieutenant Commander (Lt Cdr) Jon Browett, Lt Cdr Ian Bailey, Commodore Paul Halton, Lt Cdr Charlie Wheen, Cdr Paul Hammond (HMS Argyll captain), Lt Anna Plant
Front L-R: Petty Officer (PO) David McCafferty, PO Aiden Forster
The Seamanship Department
Rear L-R: Leading Seaman (LS) Graeme Riddell, Lt Cdr Jon Browett, Commodore Paul Halton, PO Lee Noak, Cdr Paul Hammond, AB(Sea) Joshua Buroett
Front L-R: LS Davis Gaird, Able Seaman (AB) Max Wood, AB Elliott Worgan, AB Michael Barnes, AB Thomas Hardman, AB Michael Penney
The Above Water Warfare Team
Rear L-R: PO Daniel Honey, Lt Cdr Charlie Wheen, Commodore Paul Halton OBE, Chief Petty Officer Jonathon Oliver, Cdr Paul Hammond, LS John Larson
Front L-R: AB Martin Griggs, AB Ryan Spiller, LS Samuel Carr