Page 107 - The Chapka 2016
P. 107

ERE at the Defence Cultural Specialist Unit
 This year will see my time at the Defence Cultural Special- ist Unit (DCSU) come to an end, a good moment perhaps for some reflection on what has been, broadly speaking, an ex- tremely interesting and somewhat unusual (for a cavalryman) set of opportunities and experiences. Indeed, this year alone has seen me deploy to eight different countries and serve alongside officers from over a dozen others. At the beginning of 2016 I found myself in Baghdad working with an Iraqi general in a con- verted gym in the shadow of the bombed out Ba’ath Party HQ. At the start of 2017, just two days before putting pen to paper and starting this article here on the Royal Navy’s Fleet Flagship HMS Ocean, I was being delivered to an Australian frigate by a NH90 Caiman helicopter of France’s Marine Nationale at the start of a multi-national UK led maritime exercise in the Ara- bian Gulf. In between the two I have worked for both the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions on Operation INHERENT RE- SOLVE (America’s counter Da’esh efforts in Iraq and Syria), I have delivered briefs to DI, PJHQ and the ARRC, lived for a few months with a local family in Jordan, attended a garden party at the British Embassy in Kuwait, facilitated STTTs in Bahrain and the UAE with the Royal Marines (hoofing), spun Afghan ‘dits’ in Arabic with Saudi marines and trained in shipboard CQB with Qatari boarding teams. This article then, I suppose, is for the young officers of the Regiment who, having resisted the siren call to join RHQ or Bde, are ready to fly the Squadron nest and see what the wider army has to offer.
Language and Defence Engagement are often cited as areas of future growth and importance, not just in the Army, but in Defence as a whole. Finding an opportunity to break into this emerging market is not always easy and often, for the moment at
least, runs contrary to optimised career progression. Language training in particular is regularly viewed as something of a chick- en and egg conundrum where one cannot receive it without a qualifying assignment, yet cannot apply for many of the relevant assignments without the appropriate language skills in the first place. DCSU is one of the few postings open to junior officers that offers (usually) some form of language training as part of the package. After completing three months of Gulf dialect at the Defence College of Language and Culture at Shrivenham at the end of 2014, and a further three months of Jordanian dialect in 2015 during a period of language and culture immersion in Amman, I was lucky enough in September that year to deploy to Baghdad for seven months on Operation SHADER as a J2 liaison officer in the Iraqis’ Joint Operation Centre. The word that could best sum up this deployment was ‘surreal’. Whether standing around a map board discussing options for the recap- ture of Fallujah with Iraqi Generals or listening to the Iraqi PM receive updates from commanders on the ground from the next desk over, this was certainly a step change from my previous role as 9th/12th Royal Lancers Intelligence Officer and has greatly ex- panded my understanding of joint operations as a whole.
Surreal is also how I would describe my first few days onboard HMS Ocean, the Royal Navy’s last remaining and soon to be scrapped helicopter carrier: I will never forget the sight of a Royal Naval officer bringing a furry hot water bottle into the morning’s 1* Command Update Brief. Having embarked from Dubai in late December 2016 I have in the last couple of months been employed as the CULAD to ‘Commander Amphibious Task Group’, the Commodore in charge of the multi-national task force of vessels conducting Defence Engagement and secu-
Her Majesty’s Australian Ship Arunta takes aim at HMS Ocean
 A Qatari gets to grips with UK weaponry

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