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Transferees take plunge into Submarine Service

19 October 2016
A campaign to encourage 36 Royal Navy engineers to transfer to the Submarine Service has seen its first recruits begin the process of becoming specialist engineers.

The nine transferees from Naval general service and fleet air arm made up nearly half of the latest intake to the renowned Submarine Qualification (SMQ) course at HM Naval Base Clyde, home of the UK Submarine Service.

The transfer scheme has attracted over 100 expressions of interest since it was launched by the Submarine Sustainable Manning Programme (SSMP) in February 2016.

A further 13 transferees will begin their SMQ course in January 2017, with all 36 qualified and serving on submarines by early 2018.

I fancied a new challenge. It is fairly rare to get an employer to pay you to do something completely new.

Chief Petty Officer Mike Impey

This initial group of transferees are now working through a ten week SMQ course to develop an intimate and instinctive knowledge of more than the 30 complex engineering systems which operate nuclear submarines and keep their crews safe.

They will receive weekly tests to check on their progress before sitting an in depth oral exam.

The junior rates will then be assigned to a submarine, with the senior rates going on to do specialist career training as marine or weapon engineers at HMS Sultan or HMS Raleigh.

Finally, after a period at sea, they may be awarded their coveted dolphin badges which mark them out as a fully qualified member of the UK’s elite underwater forces.

The transferees said about their move:

Chief Petty Officer Lee Rice: “I was an avionic engineer for 20 years, so this was an opportunity to try something different.

“My wife and children have moved up here, and they are really happy. The kids went straight into school with no issues.

“We knocked on the school door one day and they started the next. My wife is really happy with the area. We are out doing stuff every weekend – visiting Loch Lomond, Glasgow and even skiing on the Base.”

Chief Petty Officer Rich Coles: “I came across for the opportunities and the chance to move to a better environment.

“The Submarine Service offers more recognition of the quality job that you are doing. That was a big part of things – progression and recognition. We prefer the Scottish Scenery and the housing is better too.

“I am in the process of selling up in Cornwall and am looking to buy in Scotland.

“The course is well taught and there is a lot to it – it is very in depth. On helicopters you are a maintainer and don’t touch it when it is being  operated, but in the Submarine Service you are an maintainer operator and you need to know everything about your kit and how it works.”

AB (Writer) Nikki Wells: “I had wanted to be a submariner before I joined the Royal Navy.  So, I waited until women could serve on submarines and submitted my transfer request.

“Submarines are something completely different for me and, I think, more challenging.  This is a really lovely place to live.

“You can travel to Glasgow or Edinburgh really easily and you have Loch Lomond on your doorstep. There’s lots of variety of things to do too.”

Chief Petty Officer Gary Reid: “I spent 26 years in the fleet Air Arm. The first 25 years were great, but then I got transferred from an engineering role to an office job.

“This was the worst move that I ever made. The Submarine Service is giving me the opportunity to get back to hands on engineering for the next ten years or so.

“The SMQ course is exactly what I needed, it is the perfect practical antidote to the year that I spent in that office!”

Chief Petty Officer Mike Impey: “I had pretty much done every job and gained every qualification available to me in the Fleet Air Arm.

“But, I fancied a new challenge. It is fairly rare to get an employer to pay you to do something completely new.

“We have moved into the local area – we spotted a house and fell in love with it! There is so much to do here, so many places to go and, of course, great scenery.”

Leading Logistician (Catering Services) Mike Theobald: “I thought that moving to Scotland and the Submarine Service would offer me something different and the chance to stay in the Navy. This is my first time working up here and we are finding it really nice.

“The people are nice, Glasgow is on our doorstep, and Helensburgh has really good facilities too. The course is intense, with lots to learn and submariners have much more responsibility on board.”

Personnel transferring into the Submarine Service will receive a £5,000 ‘Golden Hello’ on achieving their ‘Dolphins’ – a recognition that they have qualified as a submariner.

As they progress they will be entitled to an attractive submarine pay package which could equate to as much as 25% more depending on rank and specialisation.

Any transfer comes with a five year return of service upon submarine qualification. Volunteers must have at least three years left to serve; accept an extension of service; be Medically Fully Employable and hold, or be willing to hold, sole British nationality.

HM Naval Base Clyde will be the single home of the operational UK Submarine Service by 2020: the new hunter killer Astute-class submarines are already there; the last two Trafalgar-class boats will move north from Devonport in 2017 and 2019; Scotland is already home to the submarine-based nuclear deterrent, with the Successor boats located there too from about 2030.

Those interested in transferring to the Submarine Service can contact the team by phone (Military Network) 9380 25887.

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