A COMMANDER in the South West Navy Reservists from Dursley has been sharing his experiences in Bahrain and Afghanistan as his unit, the HMS Flying Fox, held an open day in Bristol.

Lieutenant Commander Rod Drake is a chartered engineer by profession and has been in the RNR for nearly 30 years, recently taking a full-time post in the NATO Shipping Centre.

The 52-year-old has seen service across the globe including a recent tour in Afghanistan as well as flying out for a joint civil-military maritime trade exercise called ‘Exercise Lucky Mariner’.

Mr Drake was talking about his experiences before the RNR Live open day on Saturday, May 10 in Bristol, which was designed to encourage people to think about becoming a reservist in their spare time and achieve skills that also benefit everyday life.

“This has been a good exercise for us; we’ve had the opportunity to work with both the US Navy and the merchant industry,” he said.

“The skills and techniques we’ve practise here are essential for keeping the sea lanes open for trade.”

More than 2,300 men and women currently serve as reservists in the Royal Navy, alongside their normal day job and most have no previous military experience when joining.

The unit has enjoyed a long association with the historic port of Bristol, which was formally recognised when HMS Flying Fox was awarded the Freedom of the City of Bristol in 2002.

Today, the unit shares its facilities with the Naval Regional Headquarters for Bristol and the West of England.

Reservists normally commit to the equivalent of 24 days a year for training, which takes place mainly during the evenings and at weekends.

They are paid for their time, with pay increases with seniority.

The initial training to become a reservist takes place one night a week or at weekends for the first 20 weeks, followed by a two-week residential course at HMS Raleigh in Cornwall which includes an overnight exercise on Dartmoor.

New recruits will then be given training for a specific role, ranging from logistics to submarine operations.

The Royal Naval Reserve is a key part of Britain’s Naval Service, providing a flexible force of trained people to serve in times of conflict, tension, or humanitarian needs – ultimately protecting our nation’s interests.

In recent years, personnel from HMS Flying Fox have been involved in operational deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, the Gulf and numerous exercises across the globe.