DGE Warfare Officer 2019 Application: My journey.


I've seen others post about their journey through applications, and I thought that it might be helpful for others that are in my situation (and helpful for me to self reflect), if I shared my process too.

A bit about me: I am a recent graduate (MA International Relations (East Asia), Durham), currently living in Durham and working in Newcastle as a Careers Adviser. I was born in Greater Manchester, where I lived until I was 7 years old, before moving to rural Lincolnshire, where I completed my education in primary and then a comprehensive secondary, before starting studies at the University of Hull (BA War and Security Studies, 2012-2015). My father was born in Hong Kong and has been a Policeman most of his life (he was also in the TA (REME) back when we lived in Manchester).

I spent my extra-curricular time in childhood engaged as a Sea Cadet (2005-2011) and in various drama groups including a weekend theatre school. When I reached A Levels, I also began to participate in fencing (the sport, not the crime) which i ended up doing regularly for 7 years. While a Sea Cadet, I particularly enjoyed dinghy sailing, and I also spent much time yacht sailing with my grandfather in the Med. In my final year of undergraduate studies I spent 5-months as a parliamentary intern in the Westminster office of a prominent MP.

I first decided that I wanted to become a Naval Officer back when I was 13/14, but I didn't really start to move towards getting in until the final year of university. Yes, I am one of those fools that now regrets not starting an application while at uni. After graduating I started work in sales for a software company while I prepared to apply to the Navy. I had to wait a little as I needed to have an operation which I had recovered from by October 2015.

My first application

After breezing through the RT and feeling very confident from conversations with AFCO, I awaited my medical and fitness tests. At the opticians I discovered that I actually needed glasses, but my prescription is very minor and well within the requirements for the role. Medical took about 2 months to get, and going in to the medical, everything seemed to be fine, but I had to be TMU'd while they checked up on history (I think it was the broken arm from back when I was 2... may have also been the recent operation). Now this is, as with many applicant, where things really slowed down for me.

I chased up my GP every single week, but I kept getting fobbed off, and in the end it took all of 6 months-ish to come through and have me cleared for fitness test. Fitness test was fine (it was done at a YMCA gym in Lincoln) and I got about 10:46 something like that I think.

Moving on to Sift, I prepared for it my thoroughly researching navy knowledge and warfare branch, as well as thining about the OAQ answers I had given as a guide to the Sift questions. At this time I also came into regular contact with a mutual friend who was (and still is) a serving officer who had started out in warfare and transferred to logs later. We regularly met up in a cafe and he became a mentor for me moving through Sift and towards my AIB.

I reached AIB in December 2016 (after about 14 months since I put in my application). In the next post I will explain what happened at that AIB, what happened after it, and where I am today with my second application.


Admiralty Interview Board

Finally I was here; the part of recruitment we all dream about and dread in equal measure. Arriving at Sultan immediately brought back memories of my week at Ralleigh I had experienced as a Sea Cadet. To be perfectly honest, with all the nerves and anticipation, much of the detail of AIB is hazy to me now, reflecting on it two years on. But I remember the incredibly detailed run-through of the PLT by the ABs being particularly well delivered. I remember making brief introductions with the other candidates, being shown to the mess, which seemed remarkable empty, with many more spare rooms than candidates. I remember us being offered to have dinner on site, or the option of going down to the Cocked Hat, which we opted to do. I remember the high spirits we were all in, and what a good sort every candidate seemed to be. We were made up on a fairly diverse group (well not gender-wise), with there being another guy with a very similar background to myself also going for Warfare; the youngest guy being an A Level student, who actually confided that he was planning to not go to BRNC if he got into a specialist rating role or something that he was going for; an RM Sgt. who was going for officer; an ME Senior Rate going for officer; a guy who worked in journalism who was going for RNR; and others.

Our Syndicate started day 2 with PLTs. I was the first to lead in the individual for my syndicate. In the time I had to plan the exercise I remembered everything that had been taught to us and came up with a sound plan. Then for whatever dumb reason I second guessed myself and this put me in a confused state. I think it might be fair to say that with my limited work and life experience at this point, I wasn't used to being put in situations like that under pressure and I did not do too well out of it. I started off committed to my plan, but somewhere in the middle I remember my doubts resurfacing and I ended up coming off as indecisive. Throughout the team and individual tasks I did make sure that I was clear and loud, as we were constantly instructed to be by the board. But my poor performance in my own individual task put me in a state of worry that no doubt had some part to play in what came next.

After the PLTs we moved onto PLANEX. I'm not going to go into details on the scenario or anything, but I'll talk about it from an experiential point of view. Now, having just come out of a degree in war studies, I was well used to kriegspiele, crisis and diplo sims, etc., and that fact, coupled with my overconfidence and my attempt to overcompensate for mistakes made in PLT made me both far too assertive and complacent. In the team discussion, I definitely tried to take the lead, though I also tried to encourage another member of the syndicate who was being quiet to participate. Nonetheless I was definitely too leading, and on reflection did not show myself to be a great team player.

Moving on after lunch we did the essay and psychometric tests. The psychometric tests were certainly more challenging than the RT was, but still not too bad, its really more the time pressure than anything, but thats the point I guess. As for the essay, academics really isn't my weak spot so that was fine.

After this we had the interview, of which I actually remember precious little. I do remember there being less naval knowledge than I expected, though I fell down a little on career pipeline, and somehow my mind went blank and I forgot the word 'division' completely and had to be reminded by Lieutenant Commander Blick. I also remember regretting not having said a whole lot of stuff that was central to my proving motivation for joining and I felt really bad for that after the interview.

The last thing we did was the run, and here we get to another foolish mistake of mine at the time. In all of my prep for that application, I was an idiot and never practised running outside. I never realised just how different it would be, and bear in mind that this was December. In the end I came dangerously close to failing.

While I was still panting from the run I was taken in for debrief with the President. Lt Col.. Wilson sat me down and said. "Well, unfortunately we won't be forwarding you for selection today..." being already worn out from the run, that bombshell was the straw that broke my back. The President told me that I had been good on the psychometrics and the essay, and that the interview was fine (which I was a little surprised at), but then he explained to me the problems I had in the PLT and PLANEX, which are clearly the most important parts of the whole AIB. What it boiled down to, as I already suggested above was that I had been too assertive in PLANEX and not assertive enough in PLT. So in other words, I'd rather got the two mixed up - a quip I somehow managed to muster in that moment despite my exhaustion. He told me to go away and get some more life experience and decide if I really wanted to join, and then if I did I could come back and try again.

Que the longest quietest 4-hour drive with my Dad I've ever experienced.

In truth, this was the first real taste of failure I had ever experienced, and no doubt that is part of why I failed. I was too inexperienced, I was too overconfident, and as a result of both I was arrogant. Returning home, not knowing what to do with myself I returned to work (at this point I was working as a secretary in a forensic mental health service), but I knew I had to do something to get my head back into gear. I eventually settled on returning to university and got offers to study at St Andrews and Durham.

Starting at Durham in October 2017, I began my Masters in East Asian International Relations. At this point I had already begun to learn some Chinese, so I continued with that alongside my study. At this point, I was taking Maj. Wilson's feedback on board and at least trying to think about other career options that might be for me. During my studies at Durham I had some time to reflect on my personality and my values. I found myself at one point in a happenstance situation that proved to myself that I can operate and think effectively under pressure (I was the only person on the scene of a bizzare incident of a van driver being run down by his own van on a steep hill, I'm not really going to go through the whole thing here). At one point in the course our college received visitors from the Royal College of Defence Studies, and I was one of a small number chosen to meet with them at a formal networking event. My conversations with these students, including high-ranking military personnel from a host of different countries, reinvigorated my desire to enter military service, and I began very strongly thinking about it once again.

Towards the end of my studies, I decided to work to and submit my dissertation 6 weeks early so that I could take part in an internship in Beijing, as part of the British Council's generation UK - China programme. All of the experiences I have had since that AIB have made me a better rounded person, but all of them have equally reminded me that my heart is truly set on becoming a Naval Officer.

As a person, I have wide ranging interests - everything from history and politics, to geography, physics, the arts, and more. As a result I find myself able to gel with all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds with relative ease, yet I have rarely felt like I was in 'my place'. When I look at people in the naval service, and at BRNC, I cannot help but picture myself in their shoes, and when I look, something just tells me that is the place for me.

Ergo, I have restarted my application to join the navy as a Warfare Officer and in the next post I will talk more about my current application, how I feel about it, and what I have learned from my past mistakes and successes.
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Towards a new application

My time in China had been fascinating and fast-paced, yet eye-opening. Returning to the UK, my thoughts were firmly on the future, yet I was also in a reflective mood, thinking of the past. At that point, I had secured a job in a financial services company based in Dubai which would start a few months after my return to the UK. Yet as I sat there in Dubai airport, waiting for my transfer to Manchester, my mind turned to that AIB, and to my life-long dream. I realised that if ever I was to achieve my dream, this was more-or-less my last chance. Having already turned 24, time was short if I wanted to get into Warfare and I knew that I had to act quick, or forever hold my regrets.

After arriving in the UK, I returned to Durham and put in my new application to the RN. My RT was on January 3rd, this time done at HMS Caliope - which is quite a bit more of an impressive building than the Lincoln AFCO. The test itself was again little challenge, but it was nice to once again meet others who to some extent shared my ambition to join the navy - though this time I was the only one going for navy officer (apart from the kid going for welbeck), though there were a couple going for RM officer.

Medical triage came through quite quickly, and thankfully they were able to see my notes from the previous application, but sadly I'm TMU once again. This time its because I was prescribed an inhaler when I was 7 for hay fever - not really sure why they didn't check on this the first time around. Nonetheless, I never used the thing, it was given more as a precaution than anything, and I've certainly not been prescribed one in the last 15 years so its nothing to worry about. The only concern I have here is that it means another delay (remember that last time it took 6 months for my GP to release notes), and my time is short enough.

From where I am writing today, I am less than a week since triage, hoping that the chase-up will be more successful this time.

This time around I am primarily running outside - hoping to rectify my mistake of not doing so last time. I'm also studying the training and career pipeline vigorously, since I was a little poor on this last time around. Besides reviewing the info from @Ninja_Stoker I've also been reading through resumes of Ship and Shore Est. COs that the Navy website helpfully provides, just to have an idea of how different seniors' careers have been structured or panned out.

There isn't a day that I don't think about becoming an officer in the Navy (there's scarcely an hour if I am honest), I can only work hard to rectify my past mistakes, and hope that I can make (and pass) AIB before I pass the age requirement for my role.

Here I will leave it for a bit - I'm in no delusions this time around at how long it could take for me to get to AIB, so I'll pick things up again once I've progressed further in a few months time.
A good read & insight on your last AIB experience, you will do well in your next try I'm sure as you have assessed where you went wrong last time. Perhaps try not to put too much pressure on yourself and relax a bit as well. Best of luck in the application process again. :)


Medical and PJFT

It has been some time since my last post, but things have moved on enough now for me to provide an update. While my application has progressed, I have also changed jobs and I now work as an employer adviser for the National Apprenticeship Service, still based in Newcastle and living in Durham.

I got my medical through after a fairly short delay - I had to harass my GP practise manager a bit but it got the job done. I was given a medical in Middlesbrough which was a bit of a trek having to get back to Newcastle for work immediately after. Nevertheless I made it to the AFCO at Middlesbrough and after a surprisingly enjoyable breakfast at a nearby cafe, proceeded into the appointment with the doctor. There's not really that much to say about this stage, its all pretty standard and the Dr said I looked fine to him.

Medical hoop jumped through, I then received my PJFT date and location, which was another mighty trek. In this case it cost me all of about £38 to get to and from the gym in gosforth. In the course of the test for some reason I had a bit of anxiety which I haven't experienced on a run before, nontheless I kept going through out, though did not do a sprint finish, and made a time of 10:54 which I can definitely improve upon, but is well within the new maximum for 15-24 of 12:16.

This is where a slightly unexpected delay came apparently due to the sheer volume of current applicants. Having passed the PJFT back in March, I was given a sift/career discussion date of 29th May. The only real upside was that it meant that I was able to do a POV beforehand, which I will detail in the next post.


POV/POC 12-15 May 2019

Last time I applied to join the Navy I was not offered a Potential Officer Visit. This time I was and I leapt at the opportunity.

I was initially given the opportunity to apply back in January, immediately after passing the RT, in an email from my ACLO. I responded with the date of the POV and I wanted to do and more or less forgot about it for a few months. Then, suddenly in April I received an email saying that I had been admitted to the POV that I had requested, and should await details for transportation to follow.

The journey to Collingwood

The week before the event I was sent a code to print off return tickets from Durham to Fareham. I travelled down to Fareham on the Sunday and after an epic journey was met at Fareham station by our hosting ACLO, Lt W. We were pointed to the waiting coach and waited for the rest of the visitors to arrive. On the coach, we all made our introductions and discussed where we were with our applications. There was quite a variety ranging from one guy who was awaiting medical triage call, to two candidates who both had their AIB dates in the next week. It was clear that many of us came from quite different backgrounds, but despite our differences, its hard to ignore a certain hard to articulate commonality between us all, which makes you feel like you're in a sort of like-minded company.

Moving onto Collingwood, we were given our passes and checked into the wardroom. At dinner we all got to know each other a little better, and enjoyed a brief tour of the wardroom, whose main body consists of two bars, a dining hall and an alarming number of tea/coffee rooms, all adorned with a plethora of historical naval paraphernalia (something which is clearly a theme in military establishments).

I have to admit, I struggled to sleep that night, largely thanks to the heat of the student-accommodation-like cabin - whose radiator I could not seem to turn off. I woke from the few hours I did sleep shortly before 05:30 and prepared for the day ahead.

Day 1

Wardroom and Mercury building

We met for breakfast at 7:30 before changing to gym kits and heading out of the ward room. We went first to the Mercury building, where we had an exceptionally informative brief by the IWO Nav lecturer. Crucially we were able to see an actually up-to-date version of the training pipeline for warfare (the most recent publicly available one being a few years outdated). Besides this, we got to see WECDIS, and were told about changes to training - notably the removal of paper charts from the syllabus - and about the warfare sub-specialisation.

The information on sub-specialisations I found to be particularly useful, as its quite hard to get good information from outside the service given that AFCO advisers are ratings from across the spectrum, and ACLOs are rarely in your own branch of choice. In particular, I liked the sound of Fighter Controller and would look to find more information later on in the week.


Afterwards we moved to the RN Leadership Academy where we were given a series of team exercises by a WO and PO. I won't give you a detailed description of each of the tasks we did, only to say that the staff did a good job of demonstrating to us certain skills and attitudes that make PLT/Team tasks much easier, such as:

- Be clear and positive in your communication
- Don't get too involved in the task, its really hard to lead a task if you can't see what's going on
- Don't give up on a task just because it doesn't seem possible to complete

The last thing we did was a trust exercise where we each took in in turns to stand on a platform and fall back into the arms of the team, with one person leading the exercise. All of the tasks were a bit silly but quite fun, and I have to say it did wonders to break the ice for us - after this series of activities the whole POC became much closer and less reserved towards one another.

Horsea Island and HMS Kent

After lunch we headed out on the coach to the Defence Diving School on Horsea Island. We had a brief on MCDO specialisation, MCMV and Fleet Diving Units, etc, as well as what sort of work they do and where they deploy. We were then given a quick tour of the pool and shown some of the different types of systems they use for diving and as we walked several members of the POC asked questions about career pipeline for MCDO.

We then returned to the coach and were transported to HMS Kent. We were taken to the wardroom on board where I encountered a familiar face - a guy in my year at uni who had been on the same internship programme at parliament, who was on his SFT. We were given a tour of the bridge and operations room before returning to the wardroom for Q&A with the YOs and the Navigating Officer. It was interesting to hear the diversity of experiences different YOs have had during CFT and SFT, and it was quite useful to get their opinions on training and career as they were right in the middle of it.

I'm aware that this post is going to be extremely long, so I will post this for now and continue to talk about the rest of day 1, day 2 and my reflection on on the experience later.


Lantern Swinger
Good read. Look forward to you completing your 22 and writing an autobiography. I'd buy it.

Good luck.

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