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Accelerated officer program embark on RFA Argus

25 September 2017
Whilst the world’s eyes were on the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth as she sailed into Portsmouth for the first time during mid-August 2017, RFA Argus, anchored off Portland, Dorset, prepared to embark a 35 strong group of Officer Cadets (OC) and Directing Staff (DS), making up AOP17 (Accelerated Officer Program), on board for week 6 of their training.

The excitement grew as the passenger boat Kara Kara arrived, transporting the OC and DS onto RFA Argus deck via a roped ladder.

Overcoming the rope ladder climb was their first challenge to gain access onto the ship, as they began life on board a busy sea going operational vessel for the next two weeks.

AOP17 were greeted by the RFA Argus Executive Officer (XO), Chief Officer Martin Sayer, and Senior Naval Officer, Lt Cdr Richie Turrell. 

This visit has been an extremely thought provoking insight into the stark reality of medical care in a war time or crisis situation.

OC Miller

Once embarked the course were given a safety brief by the XO. This was followed by an opportunity for the team to watch the Chinooks flying and carrying out deck landing trials, as Lt Cdr Turrell and team mate Lt Taylor commenced their platform endorsement Flight Control (FlyCo) qualifications.

AOP, the brain child of Commodore Jamieson in 2015, aims to train and develop future Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) officers in an 8 week program which has progressed year on year. 

This year AOP17 is headed by Col Dare RM, and his team of Directing Staff from various RNR Units across the UK to deliver the programme.

AOP17 team member OC Russell stated “This has been an immersive and fast-paced introduction to Officer Training in the RNR.

"From the grandeur and history of Britannia Royal Naval College, to the infamy of bottom field at Commando Training Centre Royal Marines, the course has been demanding and different. Only in such circumstances can one truly begin to learn about oneself, the many facets of leadership, and how to begin combining the two”.

During their time on RFA Argus the OC visited each department of the ship to gain task book knowledge and were challenged each day with additional daily questions specific to RFA Argus and her crew. 

They gained experience of fire-fighting, damage control, first aid, officer of the day and duty watches to aid their development and progress towards passing their sea safety examination.

They also witnessed harbour and sea going emergency stations, lifeboat stations and later observed a life raft demonstration which included the entire ships company.

One of the many highlights during the time spent on board RFA Argus, was provided by the unique opportunity to tour the Primary Casualty Receiving Facility (PCRF), headed by the Hospital Senior Nursing Officer, Lt Colin Sampson.

He gave an insightful overview of RFA Argus medical capacity and role during deployment in support of the UK government commitment to assist with the Ebola crisis of 2014.

AOP 17 team member, OC Miller, reflected “This visit has been an extremely thought provoking insight into the stark reality of medical care in a war time or crisis situation.

The capability of the PCRF and its team is hugely impressive and the visit served as a humbling reminder of why the RFA Argus is such an important asset.”

His colleague, OC Campbell continued, “This was an invaluable insight into the high quality medical care and facilities that are available at sea. I was particularly impressed to hear about the medical aid provided by the ship during the Ebola crisis”.

The highlight of the visit and the icing on the cake for the majority of the team was the opportunity for the members of AOP17 to have a flight in a Chinhook helicopter.

All agreed that this was suitable conclusion to a successful and educational period at sea witnessing helicopter deck landing training on board RFA Argus.

XO Martin Sayer commented “RFA Argus has hosted the AOP in previous years. The lessons learnt from earlier courses have been incorporated to improve the Officer Cadet learning experience on board a large and complex operational ship.

“Ship Staff, both RFA and RN, enjoyed the opportunity to provide guidance and explain their roles to the enthusiastic groups of AOP17 cadets and instructor.”

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