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RFA Cardigan Bay in the NAG

The vessel remains in the Northern Arabian Gulf (NAG) and after a large crew change the Cardigan Bay set sail from Bahrain to her usual stomping grounds of over 28 degrees and 30 minutes north.

 I somehow sensed that the job up here was going to be a little different from my Replenishment days on RFA Bayleaf and Pirate hunting ones onboard RFA Argus.  I wasn’t wrong!

With the brand new technology of a Bay Class vessel and a new operating area my brain was full of all sorts of information, but with a great team onboard support has never been far away.  So to describe a typical week onboard, well there are never any two days the same that is for sure.  Unlike most people the week starts Monday and finishes Friday, here it’s Sunday to Thursday with the embarkation of Iraqi troops to commence their training.  Friday and Saturday’s are for Ships Company training.  We also provide a landing platform for the American Desert Hawk Aircraft, here we either receive personnel for transfer to other vessels or into theatre and more often stores this being in the form of mail for all the units operating in the areas and many needed spare parts, so on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays we are a very popular vessel.

The Iraqi troops which are embarked are being trained in many different roles from the protection of their Oil platforms to the receipt of the new Defender Class vessels which are being built in Italy.  There is a Royal Naval team embarked which is assisting in each of these different areas.  Some of the training does require a little integration with the Ships Company, Damage control and Fire Fighting being one of them. I received a phone call from our PO (Q) “Don’t panic if you start hearing Fire, Fire, Fire, the Iraqi troops are getting prepared for their own Thursday War scenario” Ah I thought to myself.  By turning the CCTV camera screens to the Tank Deck I was able to view what was going on.  In addition to this they also had a few casualties thrown in and the Doctor and Medical Technician were at hand to advise.

The time then came for the ships company to conduct a little training of their own, this was in the form of Man Overboard Drills, Machinery Break Down drills, Steering Gear Break Down Drills, Quickdraw Exercises and a fire exercise or two.
The sun had only just risen and the XO, Bosun and the Deck team were preparing the deck to put the Iraqi Boats into the water.  This was to conduct two Security Sweeps of tankers, prior to them moving to one of the Iraqi Oil platforms to fill up with fuel.  This particular day was no ordinary day though, it was Christmas Day.  Whilst the rest of our friends and family were opening presents and eating lots we were still doing the job we are here to do.  The only RFA vessel at sea over Christmas anywhere in the world!!  However in order to lighten the mood with our Australian and American Cousins at 23:00 on Christmas Eve, my ever eager on watch communicator gained Arial sector clearance for Call Sign, Santa and eight reindeer to visit RFA Cardigan Bay to conduct a stores transfer.  This caused much amusement to all of the coalition vessels who were patrolling the Oil Platforms and surrounding areas over Christmas.  A little bit of light humour in a very serious situation.  Many thanks for all of my gifts Santa!!!

Following rather a long December Patrol the ship managed to get into port for New Year’s Eve....... and my Birthday!!!
Despite being thousands of miles away from home, the ships company have done a sterling job in raising a lot of money for various charities.  These being, Help for Hero’s, Make a Wish Foundation, the RNLI and not forgetting the British Legion Poppy Appeal.  Well over one thousand pounds has been raised!!!  And if you are a keen watcher of Soccer AM then watch out for the ships company photograph.

I am going to leave it there for the moment and see what else unfolds, so until next time this is Third Officer X Tanya Warner Signing Out.