Ian White - Commanding Officer of the Royal Naval Reserve | Living North

Ian White - Commanding Officer of the Royal Naval Reserve

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Ian White, Commanding Officer of the Royal Naval Reserve
We talked to Ian White, Commanding Officer of the Royal Naval Reserve unit on the River Tyne
‘It was for me because it was in the time of the Cold War chasing the Soviet submarines in the Iceland-Faroes gap – that’s adrenaline-pumping’

What’s your job title? I’m the Commanding Officer of HMS Calliope, which is the Tyne division of the Royal Navy Reserve.

And what does that mean? The men and women who are part of the ship’s company can be mobilised to augment the Royal Navy. They’re fully trained so they can take on roles which would be required by the geo-political situation and what the government is wanting to do with our military.

How did you get the job? I joined the Royal Naval Reserve in 1977 when I was still at school. I was a reservist for three or four years and then I transferred into the Royal Navy. Initially I was a Warfare Officer on surface ships, then I specialised in the submarine service and was on strategic missile-carrying submarines. I decided to pursue a civilian career so I left the regular service and rejoined the Reserves. I was attached to HMS Calliope and over time I’ve been promoted and appointed as the Commanding Officer.

What hours do you work? It’s not a nine to five job because it’s part-time. It probably adds up to about 60 days a year, some days are a little bit more busy than others depending on what’s happening.

What does a work day entail? Making sure that the men and women who are attached to HMS Calliope are sufficiently trained so they can fully integrate with regular counterparts. If they need to go on courses they can, everything is organised from the hub, the hub being HMS Calliope.

How many personnel are you responsible for? Getting on for 200.

You’ve been stationed in the Falklands, what was that like? That was shortly after the Falklands War. We were picket boats sitting off Argentinian airfields so if the Argentinean planes took off and there looked like there was going to be an airstrike we would be able to scramble the fast jets from the Falklands to intercept.

What was it like serving on a nuclear submarine? Exciting! It was for me because it was in the time of the Cold War chasing the Soviet submarines in the Iceland-Faroes gap – that’s adrenaline-pumping.

Did you ever feel claustrophobic? I think you’re far too busy. By selection, people in submarines aren’t claustrophobic. If you’re not good at it you won’t pass the course.

What’s the longest amount of time you’ve ever spent at sea? I dived in a submarine for about 14 weeks.

What’s the worst part of the job? When some of our men and women have been mobilised. It’s the anguish of them being in harm’s way. That’s the most challenging and distressing part of the job – when something has gone wrong.

The best part? The reward from being part of the most professional, highly trained and the most respected navy in the world. And starting people off on their naval career, because it’s been very rewarding.

For information about joining HMS Calliope visit www.royalnavy.mod.uk

Published in: March 2016

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