Five Royal Navy sailors are drawing on five centuries of British seafaring expertise to share their knowledge with the next generation of men who will go to sea with the Royal Saudi Navy.
The Britons train Saudi students at the King Fahd Naval Academy in Jubail in the basics of the seamanship, leadership and naval weaponry and systems.
Chief Petty Officer Craig Sullivan forcefully demonstrates some of the basics of seamanship to the next generation of Saudi Arabia’s Royal Navy – aided by a miniature forecastle.
The senior rating is one of a five-strong British liaison team drawing on half a millennium of naval knowledge and expertise and sharing it with students of the King Fahd Naval Academy in the Gulf port of Jubail in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The academy was established in 1986 and the Royal Navy was invited to build into the corridors of the new building the ethos and tradition of Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth – the cradle of its officer cadre.
Back then there was a 15-strong liaison team. A generation later, there are five Royal Navy personnel imparting their expertise – a lieutenant, one warrant officer and two chief petty officers, led by Lt Cdr Kevin Carter – who’s also believed to be the longest-serving physical training instructor in the Service.
The team deliver training in key areas including ‘rules of the road’, seamanship, leadership and also naval weaponry and systems.
Thanks to the 27-year enduring presence, the liaison team can claim to have built a special relationship – one which has been strengthened further over the past four years as the Royal Saudi Navy has sent cadets to Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth.
The liaison team at Jubail are instrumental in preparing those Saudi cadets for the demanding 42-week course at Dartmouth (as well as two terms of young officer training, the time at Britannia also includes a 14-week English language course).
“I am sure, if you were to ask them, they would all say that they have had a life-changing experience and will take with them into their naval careers a fondness for the Royal Navy and Britannia,” said Lt Cdr Carter.
“We take great delight in seeing the young officers return from the UK, their manner and bearing reflect the positive and enjoyable experiences that they had.”
The relationship between the RN and the King Fahd academy has been further strengthened with an additional English language training programme at HMS Raleigh for up to 80 cadets a year. For many of them it is their first taste of foreign travel.
Language is one of the biggest challenges facing the British instructors.
“It creates a whole range of problems,” says CPO Sullivan.
“The cadets undergo ten months of English language training but these count for nothing when a chief bosun’s mate gets into the full flow of Jackspeak.
“Saying to a cadet that he has more brass neck than a three badge AB asking for a make and mend in defence watches’ will simply not register!”
Although there are many similarities across the two Royal Naval academies, the teaching environment and learning culture within the Jubail academy is very different from Dartmouth.
The day starts early and finishes early – when the sun is high in the sky in the summer it prevents all but the ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen’ from being outside. A lot of the physical training and parade ground work is undertaken under floodlights or with the first light of day.
WO Stuart Leatherbarrow, who is one year into a two-year appointment, is charged – alongside Lt Nic Bretten – with ensuring the developing leadership training programme is world-class.
He works closely with the Saudi academy instructors.
“The young men who attend the college are straight out of high school between 17-18 years of age, there is not the same spread of age and life experience you might expect to see in your average term of Dartmouth students,” WO Leatherbarrow said.
”All the instructors work hard in the first year of training to militarise the young men prior to the more maritime and naval training in years two and three.”
Summing up the work of the five Brits at the Saudi academy, Lt Cdr Carter says:
“There is a bright future for the Royal Navy liaison team.
“We are embedded at the heart of one of our key regional partners’ major academies, and the team are front and centre at the start of the young sailors’ training.
“This only bodes well for the future relationship between the Royal Navy and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Press Release, March 1, 2013