Training ramps up as Royal Navy ship from Portsmouth readies for hurricane relief mission

NAVY sailors, Royal Marines and helicopter pilots have ramped up their training in the Caribbean as they prepare for this year’s hurricane season.

By Tom Cotterill
Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 5:42 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th June 2020, 9:57 am

Portsmouth-based patrol vessel HMS Medway has been pictured for the first time uniting with RFA Argus as the pair gear up to save lives.

The vessels are part of a Royal Navy task group in the region there to react in the wake of a disaster during hurricane season but also to hunt out drug gangs operating in the area.

For the past few weeks the crews of each of the ships, plus the Wildcat and Merlin helicopter aviators, have been running training drills across various Caribbean islands to sharpen their skills.

HMS Medway and RFA Argus on disaster relief exercises around the Cayman Islands

The latest exercises in the Cayman Islands were designed to show the task group’s ability to come together and work seamlessly in a crisis.

‘It was an extremely valuable exercise to pull together all force elements in one location and work together to ensure that we are ready to deliver assistance in the event of a hurricane,’ said Lieutenant John Mason, of HMS Medway.

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Landing ashore from both Medway and Argus were 3 Commando Brigade’s crisis response troop.

RFA Argus, front, meets up with HMS Medway in the Caribbean in the waters near the Cayman Islands

The Commandos from 24 Commando Royal Engineers linked up with a security team stationed on the islands to set up a headquarters and establish communications with ships and helicopters.

The task group then practised evacuating casualties to the ships.

All the training was done using protective masks and clothing, testing what it would be like to react to a disaster with Covid-19 still active in the region.

‘It was great to get ashore and actually trial something rather than tabletop it. It was really interesting for me to see how 24 Commando operate and work their communications systems,’ said Engineering Technician Harry Awome, from Portsmouth-based Medway.

HMS Medway and RFA Argus on disaster relief exercises around the Cayman Islands

The air group on Argus is made up of a Wildcat from 815 Naval Air Squadron, three Mk4 Merlins from the Commando Helicopter Force’s 845 Naval Air Squadron and ranks from 1700 Naval Air Squadron.

The air group is now heading on patrols around the Cayman Islands.

Royal Navy pilot, and operations officer for the tailored air group, Lieutenant Steve Doughty said: ‘In the Cayman Islands, we are helping out with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, conducting routine patrols while their aircraft is down for scheduled maintenance.

‘We are in the Caribbean in preparation for the upcoming hurricane season, having a look at landing sites that we might use in the future, and making sure we are ready when the time comes.’

RFA Argus, front, meets up with HMS Medway in the Caribbean in the waters near the Cayman Islands

Both Medway and Argus will continue to operate in the Caribbean. As well as continuing to prepare for the hurricane season, they will be working closely with the US Coast Guard and local partners to conduct counter-narcotics operations.

In the last five years the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary have seized or disrupted circa 11 metric tonnes of cocaine and cannabis in the Caribbean, worth £750m in the UK.

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HMS Medway and RFA Argus on disaster relief exercises around the Cayman Islands

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HMS Medway pictured at sea in the Caribbean.