"Life in a blue suit"..."you never dip out"..."life in the Andrew"...Whatever "jackspeak" you hear, you know that drafting is part of Naval life. Whether you are a Rating/Marine or an Officer, you will be moved from place to place. This is part of being in the Services and is an age-old method of ensuring the Navy has the right person in the right place.
The primary aim of the drafting system is to ensure the Fleet maintains maximum efficiency, however it does consider the wishes and needs of its personnel wherever possible. This doesn't mean you will always get what you want, but the RN does ensure that your wishes are considered wherever possible.
Drafting, the staffing system for Naval ratings, is controlled by the Director of Naval Career Management (DNCM) in HMNB Portsmouth. Royal Navy Officers' appointments are directed by Naval Appointers in Victory Building, HMNB Portsmouth, and RM Drafting & Promotions come under the direction of the Corps Drafting Officer (CDO), located in HMNB Portsmouth.
What's Your Preference?
Whether you want to fix a Mark Eight Lynx, drive a Type 23 Frigate, or teach trigonometry to Artificers, you need to tell the RN/RM what you want. This is generally achieved in two ways:
Drafting Preference Forms - These inform your drafting agency what your preferences are. You can indicate your preferred geographical areas of work…for example you may prefer to remain on a Portsmouth based ship or establishment. You can indicate the type of ship, submarine, unit or squadron you would rather serve with, as well as whether you are a volunteer for a Local Foreign Draft or Instructional Duties. This form also allows you to include personal reasons why you have these specific preferences, such as family stability, children's education or a family member's physical or mental health problems. Whatever your preferences are, it is strongly recommended that you keep your drafting agency informed. For more information speak to your Divisional Officer or Unit Personnel Office.
C240 - With the title "Application for a Particular Course or Draft", this form is normally referred to using the MOD Reference number, C240. This form enables you to ask to be placed on a specific course, such as Leading Rates Command Course at HMS Collingwood, or a specific draft, for example you may wish to swap drafts with a colleague who is being posted to Diego Garcia Customs Section (obviously he or she must be willing to swap with you and submit his or her own C240 for your draft).
Leaving and Joining
So you have told Drafty what you prefer, and duly received your draft order telling you where you are off to next. So what next? Leaving and joining routines vary slightly from ship to shore and establishment to establishment, but you can pretty much guarantee that you will be visiting your Unit Personnel Office (UPO) or local equivalent, and Manpower Office (MACCO). These will provide you with further direction regarding who else you will need to see, i.e. Dental Department and Sickbay to let them know you have arrived or are leaving.
For some drafts you will be required to attend Pre-Joining Training. These may be basic such as Sea Survival, or specific technical courses such NBCD Co-coordinator's course or language courses. You will be advised by NMA or your UPO regarding these as you receive your Draft Order.
In recent years the Navy has introduced TOPMAST. The purpose of TOPMAST is to maintain a balance between Fleet staffing needs and the Serving person's individual training and personal needs. Based on a squad system, TOPMAST aims to provide each member of the Service with approximately one year shore side to every two years at sea. Although not guaranteed due to the Navy having to respond to developing circumstances worldwide, TOPMAST offers participating personnel greater opportunity to attain both their training and harmony requirements, whilst ensuring their ship retains operational capability. Initially introduced with the lower rates, the system will eventually benefit all Naval personnel. If you are "Topmasted" you are likely to have to liaise with the Waterfront Manning Office, which has its own personnel and manpower sections.
You're on your own!!!
Being an AB and moving from one location to another can be stressful, especially when you're on your own. Whether you are moving from Plymouth to Portsmouth or Faslane to the Falklands, you will need to move yourself and your kit. This is not too bad when you are going abroad (the Falklands for instance), as you will be flying, and you will receive some assistance in moving your kit as a result. However for UK based drafts, your kit is your responsibility. Check the detail of your kit insurance, if you have any, to make sure you have sufficient cover for the journey you are making. If you don't have any insurance - you might wish to consider this as an option. Your UPO may be able to recommend insurance best suited to your needs as a serviceman or woman, or search the Internet for 'kit insurance'. Apart from a duty travel warrant (including extras for travelling between the station and the base), you are on your own. This isn't too bad if you own your own car, but if you are travelling by rail you will need to consider carefully what you will be taking with you.
It is your individual Service responsibility to ensure you keep your drafting agency informed of your personal circumstances and drafting preferences at least once a year, or when your circumstances change. Should you experience any difficulties, or have any questions, speak to your DO, Waterfront Manning Office or Ships Office.