The Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll and crew have proved themselves ready for operations after completing an arduous eight-weeks’ of sea training off the SW coast.
Under the close scrutiny of Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) staff based at HM Naval Base Devonport, Plymouth, completed basic operational sea training which tests the ship and crew in fighting and humanitarian scenarios.
The crew have proved ready to be tasked to any eventuality by being thrown into a series of serials such as fires, floods and severe battle damage which tested their response to ever-changing situations under extreme pressure and fatigue.
Commander Tim Neild, Argyll’s commanding officer, said: “My ship’s company have been fantastic. They responded really well to the training and ensuring that we met all of the challenges head on and won through. The diversity and complexity of the scenarios and multitude of issues the ship is faced with during sea training is hugely relevant and very realistic and Argyll has completed them with her customary enthusiasm and professional attitude.”
The training began with stringent material assessment and safety checks when an army of approximately sixty examining sea-riders descended on the ship.
Lieutenant Commander Gary McCormack, the marine engineer officer, said: “After a testing programme in the run up to this training the prospect of my department coming under scrutiny was quite daunting. It is testament to all the members of the department who put in a great deal of work in preparation and their utterly professional approach.”
The next test was a harbour fire exercise in the engine room. Leading Steward John Wicking said: “The ship’s company were really nervous about the main machinery space fire exercise. Thanks to the determined efforts of the team, I breathed a sigh of relief when we were told we had passed first time.”
The first training week at sea provided the ship with the first taste of war-fighting with training staff unleashing an international array of simulated aircraft, missiles and real warships and submarines from the Royal Navy and other navies.
Lieutenant Jeannine Cooley, principal warfare officer (underwater), said: “Although the principal warfare officer course lasts 13 months and you spend many hours in a simulated operations room, the FOST warfare serials in a real life warship operations room provide a quantum leap in terms of realism. The serials push you to the limit and you have to show your true mettle.”
As the complexity of each serial soared from an introductory battle damage exercise to a major missile hit taking out decks and mid-ship sections midships HMS Argyll raised its game and passed each serial at first attempt. The ability, energy and determination of the team was most apparent during fires, floods and the quantity of weapon and mechanical repairs – often described as simulated carnage.
Engineering Technician Martin Woods said: “This has been my first ever taste of basic operational training and it has been difficult, but invaluable experience. I’ve never had to repair damaged cables in the dark with breathing apparatus on and smoke all around me before.”
The ship’s bridge team, under the guidance of Lieutenant Roger Skelley, navigating officer, performed strongly during long hours forced upon them to complete 23 anchorages and 76 boat transfers to embark and disembark 941 personnel.
Training most closely replicating the Royal Navy’s most common work, maritime policing patrols, included embarking a troop of 53 rookie Royal Marines and staff for three days followed by their landing, recovery and recuperation.
Petty Officer David Allsopp, catering, said: “The booties (Royal Marines) have eaten us out of house and home but they definitely need it. They love their pasta, and sausages and bacon have gone down really well. The 53 of them have eaten more bacon than the rest of the 180 ship’s company onboard and we’re down to our last three days supply of sausages.”
Royal Naval Reserve Chaplain Tom Pyke embarked to be included in the final days of training and visited all the departments, encouraging the extra gear-change in morale needed for the closing exercises. He said: “I am glad to have been onboard and played my part helping HMS Argyll and her amazing ship’s company succeed in this arduous sea training.”
Having passed the tough training the ship now takes part in high-seas firing of its missiles before well -deserved Christmas leave and a maintenance period.
Commander Tim Neild said: “After such an intensive training programme it is now vital that the ship receives some much needed maintenance and most importantly my ship’s company have the time to take some well deserved leave and recharge their batteries. Argyll will be ready in all respects for any future tasking.”