Page 84 - The Chapka 2016
P. 84

 Ihave spent the last 6 years progressing in a less than stately manner down the Arabian Peninsular from the Staff Colleges in Kuwait and Qatar to Oman where I arrived last October to take up the new position of Defence Hub Duqm Liaison Officer.
There are two main facets to my role; the first is to act as the MOD’s in country project officer to establish a joint logistics facility for UK military activity in the region centred on the new Port of Duqm. This Port is halfway between Muscat in the north and Salalah in the south, and is over twice the size of Sin- gapore. My other role, on behalf of CGS, is to establish a per- manent British Army presence in Oman through the Regional Land Training Hub. Exercise SAIF SAREEA 3 in late 2018, will act as a proof of concept for the future viability of training at scale in Oman and determine the investment in a tight financial environment.
I have an office in the British Embassy in Muscat and one in the HQ of the Royal Army of Oman and frequently visit Duqm and the training areas. I work closely with the British Loan Service Team, the Omani MOD and other ministries, agencies and pri- vate companies to coordinate the different lines of development from securing real estate at Duqm, assessing the impact of the encroachment of oil pipelines across the training area to examin- ing the risks to the UK’s long term strategic objectives.
Future Land activity in Oman will have a range of effects from conducting austere environmental training ‘at reach’, showcas- ing the UK’s enduring and permanent engagement in Oman and the Gulf over the long term. The opportunities are tremendous- ly exciting and the UK presence will contribute to increased sta- bility and security in a period of regional uncertainty.
British policy in the Middle East is based on the Gulf Strategy and the Duqm project is a manifestation of our renewed commit- ment to the region. Jan Morris, a renowned travel writer and former 9th Lancer, had the rare privilege of accompanying the previous Sultan on a genuinely stately, but intrepid progress in 1955 throughout the entire country which then had less than 20 miles of paved road. At that time he saw a decline in British am- bition in the Gulf and wrote: ‘ For there was creeping over our British policies, especially in the Middle East, a certain niggling timidity and mediocrity, a cramped middle-of-the-road caution badly out of tune with the symphony of power and vaulting am- bition being played by our competitors.’ This was written, of course, before the decision in 1967 to withdraw all British forces East of Suez; some would argue that the British never really left, but today there is still no shortage of competitors who would like to displace our influence in the Gulf. Duqm, however, shows that the UK views a permanent military presence in the region as a cornerstone of its foreign policy and is, arguably, returning East of Suez. It is fascinating and highly stimulating to be in- timately involved in such a strategic project from its inception.
Oman is renowned for its dramatic beauty having a plethora of adventurous pursuits and stunning areas to explore. There are towering mountains and cavernous wadis with some breathtak- ing leaps to pools below, not to mention the deserts and forts and an impressive culture and history. This Southern Arabian idyll now features on many people’s bucket list and I can only encourage you to come and enjoy a taste of Southern Arabia and some excellent adventure training opportunities.
Defence Hub Duqm, Oman
  Colonel Bennett relieved to have someone to talk to in the desert
Colonel Bennett holds onto his nerves leaping into Wadi Bani Khalid

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