Royal Navy reservists take part in US Navy war games

Three Royal Naval Reservists joined the world's biggest maritime war game when they spent a fortnight attached to the US Navy.

Lieutenant Commander Simon Cook and Sub Lieutenants Jamie Hayhurst and Tom Hillier seized the opportunity afforded them by an exchange programme for reservists to witness RIMPAC - the RIM of Pacific Exercise.

Some 50 warships and supporting vessels and two dozen nations were involved in the vast exercise, hosted by the US Navy every two years and split between its bases at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and San Diego in California.

The trio flew to San Diego where they were hosted by Commander Suzanna Brugler of the US Navy's Third Fleet.

"The military foreign exchange programme is unique in that it is exclusively centred on our reserve forces. From the US perspective, it provides opportunity for engagement, dialogue and heightened understanding of our NATO and European partners’ military components – both active and reserve," she said.

Having the chance to interact with US Navy personnel was the true benefit and highlight of this experience

Sub Lieutenant Hillier

"When you couple that with the cultural exchange that naturally happens on the person-to-person level, you just can’t put a figure on how valuable that kind of professional development is for working together and cultural understanding."

The exchange programme focussed on time with commands in the Pacific – such as San Diego Naval Base, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Naval Surface Force, U.S Third Fleet Headquarters and meeting the Chief of Staff Pearl Harbour ¬– and some sea time, including a stint aboard destroyer USS Preble.

Sub Lieutenant Hillier has been a reservist for six years which has included time in University Royal Naval Units and three reservist establishments: HMS Cambria, Vivid and Flying Fox.

"I wasn't aware that the Royal Naval Reserved offered up opportunities such as this so it's been an honour to represent the Royal Navy in an international setting, building foreign relations and gaining that unique inside knowledge and experience," he said.

"The international defence engagement offered through the exchange programme will prove invaluable throughout my career and future joint operations.

"Having the chance to interact with US Navy personnel was the true benefit and highlight of this experience."

Sub Lieutenant Jamie Hayhurst, who used to serve in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary but is now attached to HMS Calliope in Gateshead, added:

"The exchange was without a doubt the most enjoyable and rewarding experience I've had in the Royal Naval Reserve to date. Our hosts could not do enough for us, both during our time on land and at sea.

"I would encourage all eligible personnel to apply for future exchanges. Working with the forces of other nations provides excellent opportunities to reflect upon the way we work in the UK and helps us to foster fruitful relationships for future operations."