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June 2015 – Meeting serving personnel overseas and on deployment

Much of the Armed Forces’ work lies overseas and I have been determined to make sure I get out and meet personnel on deployment as well as in their home bases, to help me get a real feel for the challenges they face.
On deployment in the Gulf

In my opening blog entry, I mentioned that the first visit in my tenure was to HMS Duncan, just prior to her inaugural operational deployment. On that visit, HMS Duncan’s Commanding Officer suggested that I visit the ship during her deployment. HMS Duncan is a British warship – the newest and last of the Type 45 destroyers – operating in the Gulf in support of Op KIPION.

What resulted was a very packed tour to deployed units in Bahrain – including a day and overnight stay on board HMS Duncan while at sea, a visit to the United Kingdom Maritime Component Command headquarters (UKMCC) and a visit to HMS Chiddingfold, a Hunt Class Minehunter alongside HMS Duncan in Bahrain. This was an ambitious programme, but it achieved its aim of giving me a closer insight into how the Royal Navy functions in an operational theatre. I was also grateful for the opportunity to raise awareness of the change of my role to that of an Ombudsman in early 2016, the strengthened powers that the new function will give me and what that will mean in practical terms to Service personnel.

Briefings help put things into context but there is no substitute for witnessing operations at first hand and speaking directly to those involved. I was most grateful to have the opportunity to have frank and unfettered discussions with Junior Rates, Leading Hands, Senior Rates and also the Royal Marines Boarding Team embarked in HMS Duncan.

I was also very grateful to the senior officers and their respective teams, both for helping to organise such an excellent visit and for their hospitality. I have come away with a greater respect and understanding of the challenges faced by those deployed far from home in the confines of a ship in an operational environment. What came across throughout was the camaraderie, dedication and professionalism of all those I met on board HMS Duncan, HMS Chiddingfold and within UKMCC.