The Royal Navy Reserve (RNR) is highlighting Able Seaman Oliver Stevenson from Billingshurst as a case study in a new recruiting campaign for volunteer naval staff.
Portsmouth’s own reserve unit, HMS King Alfred, is opening its doors to people considering a completely different challenge in 2014 and with the added attraction of an active, fit lifestyle.
Oliverjoined the Royal Naval Reserves 2009 and has already been deployed to serve on board a ship in the Middle East.
The 38-year-old professional services manager received his call-up papers in April last year for a nine month deployment with the blessing of his employer, Banner Managed Communication, based in Guildford.
“I joined the RNR as a way of doing my bit for the country, learning new skills and developing existing ones, keeping fit and doing something different and it has turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” said Oliver.
“I was drafted, along with 11 other reservists, to 43 Commando Royal Marines in Faslane where were trained with regular Navy crewmen in preparation for deployment. Halfway through my training I was called to leave immediately for Bahrain to join another ship, the Eddystone, a ro-ro vessel.
“I was the only reservist joining a well-established team part way through a deployment. However I was made to feel very welcome and the Team commander and other team members brought me up to speed with the tasks and routines of the deployment.”
For a taste of fitness levels required and what initial naval training involves, HMS King Alfred is inviting the public to attend its ‘Live’ open day on Saturday 25 January to demonstrate the role of the RNR.
The event, which includes a demonstration on board HMS Bristol - a decommissioned destroyer - is part of a campaign to encourage more people to think about become a Reservist in their spare time and achieve skills that also benefit everyday life.
Oliver added: “With a few days in Bahrain before sailing, I was able to socialise and get to know my team mates, some of the ships company and familiarise myself with the ship.
“We sailed from Bahrain and during my time on board I was teamed up with a regular to carry out all my watch routines. We sailed to a number of particularly high threat areas and provided security against piracy as well as intelligence, such as identifying, reporting and covering suspicious vessels 24 hours a day.
“When alongside we controlled access to the ship and provided a visible armed deterrent and security against terrorists. Good communications between our force protection team and the ship’s company were vital,” he continued.
“Together with a good working relationship between the two parties meant we were able to help support them during our watch routines, include them in our daily circuit training and give them some weapons experience and resulted in a successful trip.”
Following his deployment, Oliver was recommended by his team commander and put forward by his Divisional Officer to attend a formal photo-intelligence course.
Oliver added: “I was a little apprehensive about joining an established team of regular RN personnel. However, with the excellent training I received with both the RNR and at 43 Commando, I found my skills were up to the task.
“I have seen a world that I never would have been exposed to had I not joined the RNR. The amount of ships and volume of trade moving across the seas and through the ports is staggering. From this deployment I have developed an interest in the intelligence aspects of operations and I plan to pursue this further in my RNR career.”
Physical fitness is an essential element of being a Reservist, helping sailors carry out tasks at sea and at home – whether it is casualty handling during humanitarian crises or fire fighting and damage control.
In addition to preparing Reservists for their military tasks, maintaining fitness levels also helps in developing a healthy lifestyle, preventing injury and reducing illness.
Excelling as a Reservist means being in the best possible shape. Everyone is required to undertake a pre-joining fitness test which includes a 2.4km run, with pass times varying according to age and sex.
Further strength and conditioning training includes press-ups, sit-ups, shuttle runs and swimming, and professional instructors are on hand to help achieve fitness goals right from the outset.
HMS King Alfred Commanding Officer, Anthony Stickland, said: “This time of year is renowned for making decisions to get fit or try a different career path and being a Navy Reservist ticks both boxes.
“Keeping yourself fit is a basic part of RNR life. Our activities promote a life-long exercise habit and healthy lifestyle while enabling personnel to undertake the physical challenges to support military operations.
“Being a Reservist not only brings a huge range of personal and professional rewards that also bring benefits to civilian life, but it also offers unique experiences, adventures and long term friendships.”
Reservists serve part time, unless called out for an operational tour of duty. However, fitness levels need to be maintained.
Reservists normally commit to the equivalent of 24 days a year for training, which takes place mainly during the evenings and at weekends.
Reservists are paid for their time, with pay increases with seniority.
New recruits can easily earn over a thousand pounds a year, in addition to a yearly tax-free bounty which ranges from £400 to £1,600 depending on the length of service. This sum of money can make a real difference.
For more information on the RNR fitness please visit http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/Careers/How-to-Join/Get-fit-to-join
For more details on training and to find out more about the ‘Live’ open evening, call 08456 00 32 22 or 0117 966 8667.
Alternatively, visit www.royalnavy.mod.uk/navyreserves. You can join the conversation on Facebook on https:www.facebook.com/RoyalNavalReserve and on Twitter https:twitter.com/RoyalNavy
Report and picture contributed by the Royal Naval Reserve.