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BRNC Cadets escort exercise on the Dart

5 April 2017
Officer Cadets at BRNC have escorted a boat full of refugees to safety during a fictional mission on the River Dart.

The Cadets were taking part in the final exercise of their 30-week initial naval training course, known as Maritime Assessment Leadership (MARL).

With the Dart Explorer playing the part of the boat during one of her regular river tours, the passengers acting as refugees were able to get a close look at Naval operations.

Officer Cadet (OC) Elliot Spender, age 23, from Congleton in Cheshire, was selected as the Commanding Officer for the mission.  

I really enjoy pressure, that’s why I’m here. It was difficult at the beginning because I had the time constraints of the Dart Explorer.

Officer Cadet Elliot Spender

Using his team of 12 people, the picket boat and a motor whaler, his orders was to escort and ultimately protect the Dart Explorer from possible enemy attack.

Having assessed the situation he was required to plan the operation, brief his Ship’s Company and deal with the unexpected, which on this occasion included a simulated flood in one of the boat’s compartments putting it out of action, and an attack by a small boat containing enemy forces.

OC Spencer said:  “I really enjoy pressure, that’s why I’m here.  It was difficult at the beginning because I had the time constraints of the Dart Explorer.

“I had to write my orders and get everything prepped and get my representative liaison officer on board.  It was initially very stressful, but when it’s all happening and you can see that your plan and your team are working for you, it’s very rewarding. 

“It was great to have members of the public involved to see what we do and it does add a level of realism and helps us get into the scenario.  It’s actually given me a bit of a taste for Command.  Hopefully there may be an opportunity for that in the future.”

Officer Cadet Nathan Price, aged 25, from Liverpool, was sent aboard the Dart Explorer to act as the liaison officer, providing a communication link and to reassure the public.  He said:   “The passengers enjoyed it.

“It was definitely something out of the ordinary for them.  They were all very positive and seemed generally interested in what we were doing.  Some of them were keen to share stories of when they were in the military. 

“The whole point of the exercise is to protect the region and to involve the locals was brilliant and makes it lot more interesting.”

The overall exercise sees the Cadets acting as a Task Group for a stabilisation mission, bringing humanitarian aid to the local population of a war-torn community.

 Throughout the four-days the Cadets live and work on the river in picket boats.  Each one takes a turn to act as the Commanding Officer when their performance is assessed by College staff. 

The interaction with the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat (DSRRB) Company was a new addition to the exercise this time.  It included a total of eight serials across the two weeks that the exercise was running. 

Split into two different concepts, the Cadets provided a protection screen and escort for the DSRRB vessels transiting between Kingswear and Dartmouth and to the Dartmouth-Dittisham ferry.  Providing a Liaison Officer on-board the ferry each time, the interaction was well received by the senior management of the DSRRB and BRNC will look to make this arrangement a permanent feature of MARL as the exercise continues to evolve.

Major Si Richardson RM, Officer in Charge of Exercise MARL, said:  “The Royal Naval Leadership Academy in consultation with DSRRB arranged for the ferry boat Captains, crew and public buy into this scenario and work with us. 

“This evolution which involved members of the public meant that the scenario became very real for the Cadets and removed any notion that this was just another exercise; they were protecting refugees and providing a safe passage away from the war torn area.

This type of involvement allows us to add a different dimension to the exercise and it helps us place a different form of stress upon them.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank DSRRB for their co-operation and involvement over the past two weeks and we very much look forward to working alongside, and developing further, the interaction between BRNC and the DSRRB in the future.”

MARL brings together everything the Cadets have been taught during their 30 week initial naval training course. 

Each day the Cadets face a variety of scenarios which range from rescuing casualties to intelligence gathering. 

The exercise culminated with a take-down of a warlord trying to escape from the river.  Additional assets are brought in to add to the realism, which on this occasion has included landing craft operated by the Royal Marines of 1 Assault Group. 

In addition members of the Hellenic Navy have joined their Royal Navy counterparts for the exercise this time.

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