What to expect from the RFA?

Kinighit

Midshipman
Hi folks,

I'm looking for some help and advise if you can please.

I have been given my probationary offer of Apprentice Marine Engineer and will start at HMS Sultan in September 2020 after having the first telephone interview the fleet has ever conducted, (interesting experience in itself).
I've been told what to expect for the next two years in terms of Sultan, ship, leave, Sultan, ship and leave.


What I wasn't told, is the duration spent at Sultan like being on ship or like university as in Christmas and Easter leave? Just I have three kids and they want to know when they can see me.

I've been told its a 4 man dorm at Sultan and that you get food tokens for dinner etc, but what are the facilities like? Is Wifi available, laundry, gym, mess area for socialising?

Can I take a car or push bike for exercise.

Can family visit?

I know we are categorized as RNR if we are posted within a conflict zone, but are we classed as apart of the Armed Forces and eligible for things like the HM Forces Railcard, Defence Privilege Card and other benefits?

Lastly I'm not a slight person (ex Rugby Prop Forward) but I'm not Jabba The Hutt either, does anyone know about people failing the Medical for being over the BMI with muscle and not fat?

Thanks in advance for any help
 

Belfast1882

Midshipman
I'm still doing my apprenticeship and I've never been to Sultan but I'll give this a whirl.

At Collingwood we had weekends to ourselves and could go wherever you wanted in the country (subject to getting a little form signed - which was never an issue. I went to Southend, Bristol or back home to Belfast to see family most weekends). Normally your course will fall in between the term holidays you're referring to so doubt there'll be a case needing to go home. Obviously, the weekend leave is dependent on Covid 19 situation.

Can't comment on what it's like at Sultan but I'd imagine it'll have wifi. Definitely have a laundry (not sure if in your accommodation or elsewhere ours was in our accommodation block but we had individual cabins) and I'd be amazed if there isn't a gym available - there was all that at Collingwood I can't imagine it being too different.

At Collingwood could bring a car just needed to get a car pass and prove insurance etc. Bike I can't imagine being a problem at all. It's probably actively encouraged to be honest.

Family visits I'm not sure why you'd want them to come onto the base and walk around and see your 4 man dorm to be honest mate lol. I think theoretically it is possible as there's definitely guest passes you could get at Collingwood and stuff, but I never did it (my Mum and Nan flew over from Belfast one weekend but I just met them at their hotel in Pompey Fri Sat and Sun).

Don't get the railcard no I had to buy my 16-25 one. Defence Discount Card is available yeah you just sign up once you get service number. I put RN AB down as my role but then wrote RFA somewhere else and they approved it no bother.

Shouldn't be a problem with BMI thing. I've never been in the 'ideal' BMI range and certainly wasn't at my ENG but wasn't a problem.
 

Random

Lantern Swinger
I know we are categorized as RNR if we are posted within a conflict zone, but are we classed as apart of the Armed Forces and eligible for things like the HM Forces Railcard, Defence Privilege Card and other benefits?
You are classed as being part of the RNR once you sign your papers to join the Sponsored Reserves (this is normally done when you sign your full contract). Generally when people talk of the Armed Forces & Military they do not include the RFA. As for the conflict zone thing, all civilian employees of the crown are subject in part to the Armed Forces Discipline Act when in a war zone (or in certain other situations), it has nothing to do with being in the reserves.

The requirement to get a HM Armed Forces Railcard is to be part of the Regular Forces or the Volunteer Reserves, which unfortunately means the RFA is excluded twice as we are not Regular Forces in the day job and our reserve commitment is not Volunteer.

The defence discount card is available to all employees of the ministry of defence (not just military) and their spouses/partners. When registering, tick the box saying MOD Civil Servant and the id number required will be your payroll number (Civil Service Employee number), not your MCA Seafarers discharge book number. Your issued ID (see below) will be suitable for you to claim discounts in person, the defence discount card is only needed to be purchased for the other half.

As mentioned you will be issued at some point with a MOD Form 90 (often and wrongly referred to as a Military ID card), this will allow you to claim most military discounts going (which don't have the fine print of the railways), as well as gain access to various armed forces facilities and to join some of their clubs (some are more welcoming than others).

Remember you will be primarily a civilian employee of the ministry of defence; and whilst there is a lot we can gain access to through our association with the Naval Service (day job as well as reserve); there are also a lot of clubs and discounts which as a member of the civil service you will be able to gain access to if you are so willing.

Depending on your interests you can get the best of both worlds
 

Kinighit

Midshipman
Family visits I'm not sure why you'd want them to come onto the base and walk around and see your 4 man dorm to be honest mate lol. I think theoretically it is possible as there's definitely guest passes you could get at Collingwood and stuff, but I never did it (my Mum and Nan flew over from Belfast one weekend but I just met them at their hotel in Pompey Fri Sat and Sun).
Thanks Belfast1882,

My old dear lives around the corner from Collingwood, which could be handy (or not) as the family can crash with Granny for visits.
I just know my kids are nosey, but also two of them are Sea Cadets and want to join the RN as a Navigator and a Doctor, so hopefully seeing their old man being looked after will nurture their dreams.

I can't imagine too much of a difference between the bases just more of what they teach that differs.
 

Kinighit

Midshipman
Thank you Random that has cleared somethings up.

Trying to gleam information, especially at the moment isn't easy, the Web is too confusing, the support staff are quarantined/really busy to really answer.

I am having issues because of the virus, trying to get the medical and the jabs is a pain. Face to face has limited who will carry it out, but priority is going to active seafarers, being up on Merseyside, there are a shed load of them! So I have to call every Monday morning to see if there are any appointments in two weeks time.

I just hope that things will work out.
 

Random

Lantern Swinger
Trying to gleam information, especially at the moment isn't easy, the Web is too confusing, the support staff are quarantined/really busy to really answer.
Even if we lived in normal times, you would still find it hard to get information, its not that we hide it, its just that members of our service a) dont discuss their jobs much in public b) dont believe in spoon feeding people (we expect people to look hard, try and work things out, and then come and ask). We know we should shout about our accomplishments a little more (we have set up a lot of social media accounts over the last few years to help), but in fact this forum is the only place you can get the detail that you need if you are joining (even if it is not always official / authoritative).

I am having issues because of the virus, trying to get the medical and the jabs is a pain. Face to face has limited who will carry it out, but priority is going to active seafarers, being up on Merseyside, there are a shed load of them! So I have to call every Monday morning to see if there are any appointments in two weeks time.
True, and a lot of them are RFA! I have heard from a lot of my friends (all over the country) that they are struggling to keep their inoculations up to date / renew their ENG1s. Good luck, perseverance (and possibly a little traveling) will pay off.

I just hope that things will work out.
It will, dont worry too much
 

Random

Lantern Swinger
My old dear lives around the corner from Collingwood, which could be handy (or not) as the family can crash with Granny for visits.
I suspect there would be words said if the family did not swing by, if they were down seeing you!

I just know my kids are nosey, but also two of them are Sea Cadets and want to join the RN as a Navigator and a Doctor, so hopefully seeing their old man being looked after will nurture their dreams.
Good ambitions, though perhaps you could interest the wannabe Navigator to come over to our side :D all of ours dual train and complete the Merchant as well as Navy navigation courses (in fact several recently have topped their classes, beating all the RN trainees).

It is common to find Sea Cadets wandering around various naval bases on organised visits, a fair few of our service are Instructors, POs and Officers in the Cadets and they often organise visits and trips for their (and local) units to our ships. One of the biggest occasions is the annual Bournemouth Airshow where the RFA (normally Argus) hosts hundreds of them.

Outside that, during quieter periods (when the ships are not on operations) you will find it is not unusual for wives and kids of sailors (crew & officers) to and stay on our ships (even occasionally for short passages between ports). Given the size of crew cabins, if you fancy doing this (once the apprenticeship is over), a friendly Captain & Logistics Officer is required to assist with getting a bit more bunk space for a day or two!

I can't imagine too much of a difference between the bases just more of what they teach that differs.
Bases and ships have different personalities/atmospheres (and none are the same); having spent months at both Sultan and Collingwood, I would choose Sultan any day (it just seems friendlier to me).
 

WreckerL

War Hero
Super Moderator
I suspect there would be words said if the family did not swing by, if they were down seeing you!



Good ambitions, though perhaps you could interest the wannabe Navigator to come over to our side :D all of ours dual train and complete the Merchant as well as Navy navigation courses (in fact several recently have topped their classes, beating all the RN trainees).

It is common to find Sea Cadets wandering around various naval bases on organised visits, a fair few of our service are Instructors, POs and Officers in the Cadets and they often organise visits and trips for their (and local) units to our ships. One of the biggest occasions is the annual Bournemouth Airshow where the RFA (normally Argus) hosts hundreds of them.

Outside that, during quieter periods (when the ships are not on operations) you will find it is not unusual for wives and kids of sailors (crew & officers) to and stay on our ships (even occasionally for short passages between ports). Given the size of crew cabins, if you fancy doing this (once the apprenticeship is over), a friendly Captain & Logistics Officer is required to assist with getting a bit more bunk space for a day or two!



Bases and ships have different personalities/atmospheres (and none are the same); having spent months at both Sultan and Collingwood, I would choose Sultan any day (it just seems friendlier to me).
Having done many courses at both establishments, Sultan is much more relaxed, there's a reason us matelots call the other place Collingrad.

Think yourselves lucky you're not RN!!!!
 

Kinighit

Midshipman
Thanks again for the comments it does really help.

My ole man was a stoker for the RN in the 70-80's so he's been telling me a bit about Sultan saying it was the better establishment, but that's 40yrs ago and I'd hope things were a little better since then (although I'm not willing to stake any money on it!)

Typically how many people are on an engineering apprenticeship course?

Is there other opportunities to study other courses as you progress in your career?

What is uniform allocation like? As a rating I presume 4's and overalls (5's?)

Other questions that I'm being asked by the family.

We currently have 6 ships up here on Merseyside; two tide class in Lairds, two Fort Class in warm storage in Birkenhead, one Wave class in cold storage in Liverpool and the other Wave Class in Lairds also (we see them every other day). I presume only a skeleton crew is onboard the warm storage vessels, to make sure everything runs, cold has none, and the other three in Lairds would they be a full crew?
If I was posted up here would I be able to go home of a night or is that decision down to the ships CO on the day?

If I get posted abroad will I be able to travel to the ship by helicopter, I have explained that the ship will be in dock when a crew change happens, but they want to think it's all adventure on the high seas!
Also when explaining that you help deal with pirates off Somalia etc, they think I'll meet Captain Jack Sparrow, if only life was that interesting!
 
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