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Daily life in RFA

rfa_cadet

Newbie
I'm currently considering a career as a deck officer in the RFA (after first doing a cadetship) and I am trying to find out more information about the job. Would you mind if I asked you a few questions?

I have been looking through this and other similar forums but I can't find much about what hours you typically work and other "day in the life" type information.

They seem to have an 4:8 rota with two 4 hour watches each day. Is this the total of their working hours or are there additional duties? For example I believe that looking after live saving and fire fighting equipment is part of the role, is this done outside of the watches?
I understand that these watches involve navigation and watching for other ships in the area, what other things do you do?

What is life like on board? Is there any free time to go to the gym etc. or do they try and keep you busy the whole time?

I apologise if these are obvious questions but I haven't been able to find clear answers to them anywhere.
Thank you,
Dave
 

Megalopteron

Lantern Swinger
Is this the total of their working hours or are there additional duties?

There are additional duties. 3/O(X) jobs include LSA (lifeboats, lifebuoys, lifejackets, etc.), Officer of the Quarter (custody of explosives and maintenance of explosive magazines), Watch and Station Bill, and various minor tasks. Normal scheme of complement on most ships allows for one 3/O(X), though there will often be supernumaries. Expect to spend about 2hrs/day on these duties outside of your watches, plus catching up whenever you are alongside. Then there are exercises, briefings, cargo work and bullshit to attend outside of your watches, exactly how much depends on ship and tasking.

For example I believe that looking after live saving and fire fighting equipment is part of the role, is this done outside of the watches?

Whilst firefighting equipment maintenance is a traditional Merchant Navy 3rd Mate job, in the RFA it is done by an engine room PO assisted by departmental ratings.

I understand that these watches involve navigation and watching for other ships in the area, what other things do you do?

Avoid collision with other ships. Run routines and elements of the day's programme. Run aviation operations. Conduct pre-replenishment checks. As OOW you are in charge of the whole ship with the delegated authority of the Master and are regularly asked for permission to do things and required to direct various tasks.

Is there any free time to go to the gym etc. or do they try and keep you busy the whole time?

Routine work of the ship is very much 0800-1700, though some operations and exercises (especially those requiring darkness) will be programmed outside of those times.
 

Prop1910

Midshipman
Following on from this, what does a Point Defence Officer do?
Is it a similar role to a Warfare Officer?
I can't seem to find any information regarding it......maybe I'm using the search facility wrong......!!
 

Random

Lantern Swinger
Following on from this, what does a Point Defence Officer do? Is it a similar role to a Warfare Officer?

In a way, the Point Defence Officer (PDO) is a Deck Officer who has completed specialist training with the RN and is in charge of co-coordinating the ship's defence systems (chaff, small arms teams, 20/30mm, CIWS etc). Warfare is not in the title because the role is based on the concept of preserving the ship and its crew rather than being offensive to others.

Later on in their career there are options for RFA PDOs to complete the full PWO (Principle Warfare Officer) course with the RN, in the same way RFA Navigators have the option of undertaking the RN Specialist Navigators Course (SpecN); if they have passed the lesser courses first.
 

Prop1910

Midshipman
Later on in their career there are options for RFA PDOs to complete the full PWO (Principle Warfare Officer) course with the RN, in the same way RFA Navigators have the option of undertaking the RN Specialist Navigators Course (SpecN); if they have passed the lesser courses first.
As an RFA Deck Officer, are you required to specialise in one particular aspect, ie. navigation, or are you required to be expert in all areas of deck operations?
I realise that you have to be proficient with it all, but expert in all, or just some of it?
 

Random

Lantern Swinger
As an RFA Deck Officer, are you required to specialise in one particular aspect, ie. navigation, or are you required to be expert in all areas of deck operations?
I realise that you have to be proficient with it all, but expert in all, or just some of it?

Your cadetship will train you to be competent in all areas of deck operation so that you can obtain your Certificate of Competency as OOW (Unlimited). As you progress through your career you will be expected to improve on this by attempting the qualifications for Chief Mate (Unlimited) and Master (Unlimited). So pretty normal when compared to the Merchant Navy career route. As the RFA sits between the Merchant Navy & the Royal Navy you will also be expected to progress through the RN training routes to become qualified in their eyes as a navigator or a warfare officer.

You will have an entire career to become an expert, the legal requirement for our ship drivers are the merchant navy qualifications; so you will require sufficient proficiency to gain them. Depending on the priorities of the RFA, they will adjust how much of the RN courses you need to do on top, for each advancement of band/promotion.
 

Megalopteron

Lantern Swinger
As the RFA sits between the Merchant Navy & the Royal Navy you will also be expected to progress through the RN training routes to become qualified in their eyes as a navigator or a warfare officer.

You will have an entire career to become an expert, the legal requirement for our ship drivers are the merchant navy qualifications; so you will require sufficient proficiency to gain them. Depending on the priorities of the RFA, they will adjust how much of the RN courses you need to do on top, for each advancement of band/promotion.

Really the adqual (additional qualification) requirements for career progression are quite well established, though the lines in the career frameworks have already been fudged for convenience/advantage.

Additional qualifications and duties for 2/Os include Preliminary Navigating Officer(PNO), Point Defence Officer (PDO) (as mentioned) and Fleet Navigating Officer (FNO). The junior 2/O will normally be PDO, the senior effectively "navigator" regardless of whether his qualification is PNO or FNO.

1st Officers will be titled as combined Navigator/Operations Officer (NavOps), but in reality with a 2/O doing most of the navigation the 1/O concentrates on the Ops role. For career development, 1/Os with a bit of seniority in rank usually train with the RN as either Specialist Navigating Officer (SpecN) or Principal Warfare Officer (PWO) and go on to take a staff/shore/training job using those qualifications. I'm not aware of any in the RFA that have done both, though it's not impossible, especially for any who are ex-RN. It isn't compulsory to complete either of those to reach Chief Officer, but it helps a lot. About 2/3rds or so C/Os are SpecN or PWO.

Chief Officer (Choff/XO) is responsible for cargo operations, heading the deck department, whole ship coordination, and by this time you will have experience across the whole range of activity and specialisations within the department, setting you up for command as a Captain.
 
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