I graduated from the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, a programme designed to give us politicians a better understanding of the work of the armed forces.
The Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, which was launched in 1989, opens a unique window into the world of everyday life in the armed forces and the tasks they are asked to undertake on our behalf.
The objective of the scheme is to help MPs understand the work of the armed forces and foster genuine personally informed contributions to participate in defence debates.
I joined the scheme in 2016, and have visited different branches of the armed forces over the last year. Members are given the chance to select which branch of our armed forces they wish to be assigned to: the Royal Navy; the Royal Air Force; or the Army. I opted for the Army and has completed 22 days of services, which means I am now able to graduate from the programme.
I visited the British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS) in Calgary, Canada, as a guest of the Army, where I met a wide range of serving troops as they underwent combat training, and met with soldiers from all ranks of the Army, including those from the Royal Tank Regiment, Tactical Operations, Commanding Flight Officers, Royal Signals, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and the light Infantry.
On another visit, the Fareham MP was welcomed onboard HMS Prince of Wales, while it was being built in Rosyth dockyard, where she met the men and women of the Royal Navy who will be responsible for operating the vessel from their future base port of Portsmouth Naval Base. She was given an in-depth tour of the ship’s facilities, weapons stations and flight-deck.
I also visited 1 Assault Group Royal Marines and 45 Commando, known as some of the most elite commando forces in the world, on their cold-weather training in the Arctic Circle, Norway where I was put through her paces in sub-zero temperatures alongside Commandos.
I spent time with troops here in the UK on a number of other deployments, training for three days at The Defence Academy, Shrivenham, where I got my hands on the Army’s latest weaponry and took part in live firing using the SA80 assault rifle and the L129A1 sharpshooter rifle.
The AFPS has been an absolutely invaluable experience. It allowed me and the other members to gain crucial first-hand experience of life in the armed forces and has really opened my eyes to the incredible work of our servicemen and women.
We are lucky to have the best armed forces anywhere in the world, but it is only possible through the great commitment and personal sacrifice of individual men and women.
I would like to thank all those who ran the scheme for the opportunity to take part. This is definitely something all MPs should consider doing.