It was good to be back at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham this week as part of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme (AFPS), having first joined the programme last year as a new Member of Parliament.
The AFPS was established in the 1980s to provide Members of Parliament with experience of Military life and see at first hand the everyday life of Service personnel and the tasks they are asked to undertake on behalf of our country. Over the last 12 months I have spent 15 days with the Royal Navy gaining a deeper understanding of Defence and current military issues, and it has been an absolute privilege to visit some of the Naval bases and ships and to meet with servicemen and women.
One of the highlights has undoubtedly been spending a day on board HMS Portland while she was at sea, and also experiencing arctic survival training with the Royal Marines in Norway. A visit to see the new aircraft carriers under construction in Scotland was also memorable, as indeed was my visit to the Fleet Diving Squadron, albeit for very different reasons: not least having to wrestle my way out of a wet suit!
The AFPS is an excellent way for MPs to learn through spending time alongside service personnel. Having successfully completed the first year I have re-applied to join the scheme, and will be spending time now with the Royal Air Force.