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Bring it on say HMS Kent after intensive pre-deployment workout

18 April 2023
At the top of their game after ten days of the most intensive training the Royal Navy can offer are the crew of HMS Kent, ready for an impending deployment.

Kent has already passed Operational Sea Training – five or so weeks of demanding training and assessment off Plymouth determining whether a ship and her crew are ready to deploy on front-line duties.

But that was a while ago, and with changes in ship’s company, a condensed, intensive package –known as Directed Readiness Training which effectively squeezes the key elements of five weeks’ instruction into just ten days – was deemed just the ticket.

In this instance, the Portsmouth-based frigate was called on to enforce an exclusion zone separating two fictitious nations (Ginger and Brownia) who are at loggerheads.

It took exactly one day for hostilities to break out: ushering in non-stop action and tests of the ship’s company: a surface warfare exercise, air defence, submarine hunt, battle damage (fire, flood, crashes, systems knocked out, engineers effecting makeshift repairs), widespread casualties, a spot of marine pollution, all-out war with simultaneous attacks above, on and below the waves, fire raging in the engine room putting Kent out of control, more floods.

It’s about as intense as it can get aside from the real thing. While there’s no real fire or water, there’s a lot of simulated smoke, shouting and running around with heavy kit in cumbersome clothing such as the firefighting kit.

A lot of the burden of saving the ship in such circumstances falls upon the logistics department, more attuned to admin, bookkeeping and ensuring there are enough supplies (food, fuel, spare parts) to keep the ship running in regular circumstances.

“While every member of the ship’s company is trained – and expected – to deal with the myriad of incidents which can arise at any time, it’s perhaps the Logistics Department who most find their roles at action and emergency stations to be a dramatic contrast from their daily tasks,” explained Kent’s Deputy Logistics Officer Lieutenant Richard Chapman.

In war he’s put in charge of damage control in Kent’s aft and his team become ‘action logisticians’ – far removed from the ‘day job’: firefighters, battle damage reporters, first aiders and stretcher bearers, providing the extra bodies needed to plug holes or shore up bulkheads, as well as rooting out replacement parts for damaged equipment.

The experience has been phenomenal.

Able Seaman Jake Lloyd

Chefs too leave the galley and take up first-aid duties, but they are still expected to keep all 180 of their shipmates, preparing, cooking and delivering a hot meal – typically some form of pasta – before cleaning up, all inside 45 minutes... known as action messing.

“The experience has been phenomenal,” said Able Seaman (Supply Chain) Jake Lloyd.  “It may mean long days, lots of admin and preparation, but we have been able to prove that HMS Kent’s logistics department is critical to the ship’s efforts.

“No fire will stop us, we Jack Dusties can don breathing apparatus and perform a ‘face seal’ check within world record times, diving head first into horrifying fires and floods to save the day.”

Able Seaman (Supply Chain) Kayleigh Watson added: “This was a great chance to train up our newest member of stores and offered us – as seasoned bods – a chance to brush off the cobwebs,” said. “Stores have once again proven themselves the dream team.”

By the time of the final assessment – taking battle damage from a missile – her Commanding Officer Commander Jez Brettell said “HMS Kent had proved that all the lessons learnt from training had been effectively put into practice to control the mayhem that was unleashed.

“With the final assessment of our training package passed with flying colours, Kent is now ready for her imminent operational deployment.”

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