My name is Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennett and I am a Logistics Officer in the Royal Navy. My current posting is as the new Base Support Officer at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton. I have come from an operational post in Bahrain supporting mine countermeasures in the Gulf, something that couldn’t be further away from infrastructure and contract management!
If you have never heard of RNAS Yeovilton before, it is located in the beautiful Somerset countryside but is far from a sleepy hollow in the middle of nowhere. In fact it is one of the busiest military air stations in Europe with over 4,000 military and civilian personnel coming to work here every day.
I have arrived at Yeovilton during a time of incredible change. A large proportion of the Air Station closely resembles a building site as a number of new buildings are being built and some refurbished. This is part of the DIO Wildcat Infrastructure (WINFRA) project, established to support the co-location of the Army’s Wildcat Force, Navy Wildcat Maritime Attack and Commando Helicopter Force.
Role of the Base Support Officer
As Base Support Officer I act as the Navy interface and main point of contact for Facilities Management (FM) for both the contract owner, DIO, and the contractors. For Hard FM, which includes areas like building maintenance, the contractor is CarillionAmey. For Soft FM, such as cleaning and catering, it’s Sodexo.
So what does a typical day look like in Base Support? As you can imagine there is no typical day but it is always wide ranging, interesting and often a balancing act between meeting the needs of military personnel, meeting the needs of the Services and having the resources and funding available to achieve the desired outcome, something which is challenging in the current economic climate.
After clearing my inbox and catching up with my division of caterers my attention turns to infrastructure and facilities management. I start by looking at requests for changes to current infrastructure or new infrastructure requirements that need funding by the Virtual Bank Account, a pot of money provided by Navy Infrastructure. Working in partnership with DIO these requests are prioritised and when funding becomes available, are passed to the contractor to undertake.
I often eat my lunch in the Eagle Diner, an all-ranks dining facility run and managed by Sodexo, producing more than 1,000 meals a day. This facility was recently refurbished and is now a modern dining facility with a coffee shop and free wifi. It is my responsibility to ensure that the Soft FM service requirements laid down in the contract with Sodexo are being met and that they provide good service and value for money to soldiers and sailors; this is done in liaison with the on-site DIO Soft FM Manager. So what better way to monitor service than to eat here regularly?
As Base Support Officer I will often accompany senior officers on rounds of accommodation blocks, discussing the current state of repair and how we can improve standards of living where possible. As part of the WINFRA project a new Senior Rates mess with 442 single cabins is being built across the road from the main site. This growth in bed spaces will provide Junior and Senior Ratings and their Army colleagues with more modern accommodation. This will hopefully make Yeovilton a more appealing place to work for the more junior members of the two services.
I also undertake walk rounds of buildings that have either just been built or remodelled and refurbished with managers from DIO and Sodexo in order to enable cleaning contracts to be amended to include these areas. Although to most this may sound unimportant it is vitally important to those moving in.
Refurbishments and New Builds
When I get an opportunity to take a break during the day I often head to the newest facility to be reopened following refurbishment, The Channel Dash, for a wet – that’s Royal Navy slang for a cup of tea! Formally known as Jesters, the Channel Dash underwent a one million pound refurbishment funded by the Navy and project managed by DIO with Debut Services. It now boasts a Costa coffee shop on the ground floor and a new look bar and outside area.
At the end of the day, like many others, I go to the gym and as I make my way inside I can see the new gym being built next door taking shape. This is also part of the WINFRA project and will be ready by November this year to accommodate the growing population of RNAS Yeovilton. New all-weather sports pitches are also included in the new build which will be a nice addition.
As you can tell I am rarely at my desk! Last week I visited the Fleet Air Arm Church to meet the building manager and see the state of the building’s repair for myself. I felt very privileged as I was allowed to climb the bell tower and reached the top, via a very old and spider-ridden spiral staircase to be greeted with views the spectacular Somerset countryside, the Air Station and a few helicopters in flight.
Working with a new contractor has brought challenges for all parties, especially whilst new procedures and practices are being established. We all know the job is not over yet but working in partnership with DIO has already clearly brought much needed change and modernisation to Yeovilton.