Be Inspired Series
Martin joined the Royal Navy from school in 1981 and left in 2003. During that time he served in a variety of ships such as an aircraft carrier, an assault ship and three Polaris Class nuclear submarines.
What does your job entail?
As the commanding officer of HMS HIBERNIA, the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) training unit based in Lisburn I am responsible for the recruitment, training, administration and career management of approximately 90 reserve personnel from all over Northern Ireland. My main responsibility is to ensure that they are trained to the same high standards as regular naval personnel and ready in every respect to support operations worldwide as and when required.
How did you get into this line of work?
I am an ex-regular officer and left the Royal Navy in early 2003 at the end of a career commission. After settling into a new civilian career I joined the RNR in late 2003 because I wanted to continue to enjoy the challenges of military life but on a part-time basis.
So what is your background?
I joined the Royal Navy from school in 1981 and left in 2003. During that time I served in a variety of ships such as HMS ILLUSTRIOUS (an aircraft carrier), HMS INTREPID (an assault ship) and three Polaris Class nuclear submarines (RENOWN, REVENGE and RESOLUTION).
In between these posts, I held a number of shore-based appointments in Plymouth, Portsmouth and Northern Ireland. As a reservist I have served in Sierra Leone, Malta, the USA and most recently Afghanistan in 2008, when I was mobilised as the chief media operations officer to the commander of NATO coalition forces in Kabul. As a media specialist I was the head of specialisation between 2007 and 2009 and in July of last year I was promoted and assumed command of HMS CAROLINE, now HMS HIBERNIA.
What qualifications do you have?
As you can imagine training within the Navy is quite extensive. I joined the Royal Navy in the weapons engineering specialisation and after initial career training I worked on satellite and radio communication systems. I studied in my spare time, whilst at sea, and gained the qualifications necessary for promotion and a commission.
After selection I then spent a year at Dartmouth Naval College before undertaking more specialist training as a logistics oficer. Later, whilst still serving in the navy I read for two degrees at the University of Ulster. My primary degree is a BA(Hons) in Business and I have a Masters degree in Administration and Law.
I am also a Chartered Secretary and hope to qualify in the near future as a Chartered Director with the Institute of Directors. So, it's fair to say I've kept busy.
Did you always want to be in the Navy?
A career in the Royal Navy was always my ambition and I particularly wanted to become a commissioned officer and serve in nuclear submarines, both of which I achieved.
I also have a real interest in the community and voluntary sector in Northern Ireland. I'm currently involved with CO3, the organisation for Northern Ireland's third sector leaders to help in the great work that is being done to support those groups in society who are most vulnerable.
What qualities are required for your role?
To command a reserve unit experience and good service knowledge are essential. The key personal qualities required in my role as CO are strong leadership and people management skills. The professional qualities required are the ability to assimilate information quickly, to be able to formulate and execute plans and to communicate clearly at all levels. All reservists need to be committed; self-motivated and determined to succeed whatever the task.
Leadership is the one quality that cannot be underestimated. I believe every encouragement should be given to people within the private, public and third sectors to enable them to develop their leadership skills.
I am on the judging panel for CO3's Voyager Awards which take place this week -- these awards recognise the great leaders that we have within the third sector here and I very much welcome such initiatives across all industry within Northern Ireland.
What do you do day-to-day?
Because I am a reservist I am not in HMS HIBERNIA on a daily basis so I have a small team of regular service specialists who undertake the day-to-day work on my behalf.
My role is to provide the training facilities and opportunities that the reservists need and to plan a range of activities that allow them to maintain their skills for when they are needed.
Our weekly training night at HIBERNIA is always busy and I spend most of the evening working with teams and individuals. We also train at weekends and I do most of my management work in the evenings and weekends from home.
How often are you called into service?
Naval reservists are now required to operate alongside their regular service colleagues wherever they are needed and increasingly that means in operations on land rather than at sea. We expect to be mobilised (called into regular service for short periods, perhaps up to a year) about once every five years.
As the head of the media operations specialisation I was mobilised in 2008 to undertake a senior advisory role working for a US Army general in a NATO job that required me to deal with the world's media and the Afghan government on a daily basis. This required some short specialist training and resulted in me being away from home and my day job in Belfast for nearly five months. Being able to provide well-trained, well-motivated people to fill short-term specialist roles is what the Naval Reserve is all about.
What makes working in your industry interesting?
For me the variety of work on offer is the main professional attraction. In the past seven years I have been to two of the world's poorest countries, worked with the Royal Family including HM The Queen, made a documentary with the BBC onboard a nuclear submarine, covered operations all over Afghanistan and now I command my own unit.
What career progression opportunities are available?
Most people join the RNR through the rating entry scheme but some can also join directly as officers depending on qualifications and experience. Initial selection and training takes about 12 months on average and then specialist training another 12 to 18 months. This can be shorter for those who can commit more time. For those who are so motivated, it is possible to move into a stream for training and development that can lead to a commission quite early on.
What kind of personality do you need to be a Naval Reservist?
More than anything I believe a Naval Reservist needs to be someone who enjoys being part of team. You need to be self-motivated, ready to make a long-term commitment and to enjoy dealing with the unexpected.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
When I do have some spare time I like to spend it at home with my wife, Maria. Cooking is something that I do find relaxing but I'm no Jamie Oliver. I travel a lot professionally and socially and photography is a hobby that I am learning to enjoy.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
I have twice spent more than four months underwater in a submarine.
Who has inspired you most in your life?
My parents. My father was also in the Royal Navy and both my parents were great role models. I admired their personal qualities and the way they always placed people at the top of their agenda. They were devoted foster and adoptive parents who always gave 100% support to the family.