Thursday, September 17, 2009

HMS Iron Duke Proves She Is Still Fit To Fight

Since our second Counter-Narcotics success in late August, the Ship has enjoyed visits to Port of Spain, Trinidad, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Between the two we passed a mid-deployment assessment, with RN staff from the UK visiting to test our continued operational capability.
Before the Ship arrived in Port of Spain, we conducted training with the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard (TTCG). 8 members of the TTCG stayed on board overnight, witnessing flying operations and taking part in gunnery and Replenishment at Sea in preparation for the delivery of their new Offshore Patrol Vessels from the UK. The Ship spent 3 days in Trinidad in early September, with the official evening reception on board for local dignitaries once again considered a great success. The Commanding Officer and Executive Officer represented the Royal Navy at the Trinidad and Tobago Independence Day Parade, attended by the President and many local dignitaries. We also hosted a visit by friends and family of the British High Commission, with 100 guests of all ages taking the opportunity to tour HMS Iron Duke, who left the Ship impressed with the capabilities we have to offer.
The Ship’s sports teams played local rugby and golf teams with mixed results. Whilst the rugby team played gallantly they eventually lost in a highly exciting and close run game; the golf team performed better and enjoyed a good day of golf on a challenging course. Afterwards both teams experienced the local hospitality of their opponents.
After departing from Trinidad and on passage to Puerto Rico, Iron Duke had a very busy period of training and assessment with a range of staff embarked. These teams came on board to ensure that the high standards set before the Ship left UK waters were being maintained and that we still had the edge. Staff from Flag Officer Sea Training came to assure the Commander in Chief Fleet that the Ship can perform our core war fighting skills in preparation for any task that may be required of us. Staff from the Portsmouth Flotilla embarked to ensure correct standards and procedures remain in place in the engineering departments, and also looked at whole Ship routines. The Ship’s Flight also had teams embarked to ensure that both the helicopter crew and the flight deck team are operating to the high standards required for naval aviation. It was a busy, demanding week, but the visitors left confident in Iron Duke’s continued ability fight in all environments.
Our visit to Puerto Rico was nearly delayed by the passage of Tropical Storm Erika, which fortunately dissipated before it reached the Caribbean. After such a demanding time at sea the visit allowed the Ship’s Company the opportunity to relax and see all that San Juan has to offer. The main official event was the reception on the first evening, attended by many local dignitaries, foreign diplomats and US Coast Guard Officers. During our visit Puerto Rico’s Secretary of State also came on board for an informal tour and was suitably impressed by what he saw.
HMS Iron Duke’s primary mission in the Caribbean remains the provision of support and reassurance to the UK Overseas Territories. As the Ship sailed from Puerto Rico hurricane Fred, which started as a tropical depression off the West Coast off Africa, was heading West across the Atlantic and the Ship is keeping a close watch on the forecast. In the meantime, counter-narcotic patrols continue and we are hopeful of more successes soon.

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