DANGLING from a Sea King helicopter in rough weather is not how Westminster military briefings are usually done.
But the MP for Gosport Caroline Dinenage was thrown in at the deep end on a visit to the Falkland Islands.
She spent three days with British armed forces on the islands as part of a privately-funded scheme giving politicians the chance to experience military life.
Mrs Dinenage was kitted out in army gear and winched down from a helicopter to join sailors on HMS York during her visit earlier this month.
She camped out on Onion Range, a remote live firing range used as a training ground for British soldiers.
She said: ‘It is one of the best things I have done in my life. I learned more spending time with soldiers and sailors than I did from briefings with the top ranks.
‘The scheme was set up to try and give politicians a better understanding of what it’s like in the armed forces. We spent some time on HMS York and some time camping out on Onion Range where we did a live firing exercise – it was extreme camping.
‘Just talking with the guys on the mess decks on HMS York gave me a really good understanding.’
Mrs Dinenage was joined by another 10 MPs who are all members of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme.
The visit included a trip to Mount Tumbledown, where British and Argentinian soldiers fought in 1982. They paid tribute at a memorial to fallen soldiers.
‘I felt like I owed it to my constituents because so many people from Gosport gave their lives to protect the Falklands,’ she added.
‘I bumped into someone from HMS Fearless who was there to pay his respects.’
The MP added: ‘In some ways nothing has changed in 30 years.
‘It’s a country that has enormous worth in the sense that it is sitting on amazing farmland and oil which will one day be extremely valuable. And yet they are extremely reliant on the British military – I would say overly reliant. But I think it’s very good we are there because that oil is going to be valuable in the future.’