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Yippee-kay-aye, Midshipmen as rookie engineers join US Navy’s patrol boats

9 August 2023
Four newly-commissioned Royal Navy midshipmen spent a month learning how the US Navy trains its leaders of tomorrow.

They were given the opportunity to take a Yard Patrol boat – nicknamed YPs or ‘Yippees’ – up the USA’s Eastern Seaboard for their summer deployment.

All four Brits are budding engineering officers under the University Cadetship Entry scheme – unlike many fellow officers, they complete the first phase of their officer training at Dartmouth before going to the university of their choice to study a STEM degree.

Between passing out in April 2023 and the start of the academic year in September 2023, the latest UCEs applied themselves in a variety of fields – initially seven weeks onboard a P2000 undertaking Op Aurora with allies and partner nations in the Baltic region before subsequently flying out to Annapolis, for a month of ‘yard patrol’ training.

That culminates with a stint on Yard Patrol boats – larger than the new Vahana picket boats used on the Dart, or the P2000 fast patrol craft used for widespread training of the Fleet and University students.

This month-long training package is broken down into three phases:

  • Walk: classroom-based instruction on basics such as navigation, seamanship, and rules of the road.
  • Jog: moving on to the academy’s simulators to practise pilotage, ‘rules of the road’ situations with other vessels and operating with bridge watch teams in specific roles. The Brits stepped into a variety of leadership roles: Ben Allen was put in charge of a YP, Alexander Tolley as executive officer, Henry Francis was Officer of the Deck and Nathan Hayes served as Squadron navigation officer – all ‘appointments’ far removed from their engineering backgrounds.
  • Run: when the skills learned and teamwork came into their own; on the bridge of a YP as a watch for multiple days at sea, navigating to various ports spanning the Eastern Seaboard of the USA, stopping at first New York, then Boston.

All underway evolutions were executed with precision, culminating in the return of the four YPs two weeks after departing.

Midshipman Ben Allen, Midshipman CO of Pennant 1 said, "It was a brilliant opportunity to train with the future leaders of the United States Navy."

As well as time preparing for and then going to sea, the British quartet made the short trip to Washington DC, attending the academy's Muay Thai Club and meeting the Superintendent at his house before he left the USN.

“The training provided by the US Naval Academy will not be forgotten,” said Henry. “Whether new experiences, people, or opportunities – this journey reinforces the close relations held between the UK and US and exemplifies why it is so important to maintain such partnerships.”

The training provided by the US Naval Academy will not be forgotten

Mid Henry Francis

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