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Penguins and Project Management: a secondment to the Falkland Islands

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Hi, I’m David Bailey and I’m on a six month secondment to DIO’s Programme and Projects Delivery (PPD) from the Health and Safety team. I’m a Project Manager based in the Falkland Islands and I'm currently working on several projects including a new school, new power station and refurbishment of Mare Harbour.

David Bailey. [Crown Copyright/MOD2017]
David Bailey. [Crown Copyright/MOD2017]
I’m also looking after Project ANEMOI, three remote radar head sites requiring new accommodation and infrastructure. These projects alone represent an investment of more than £100m and show how DIO is committed to improving the working and welfare conditions on island for those who live and work in the South Atlantic.

Moving to the Falklands

The main reason I applied for the secondment was for personal development, to improve my knowledge of the DIO estate, the wider MOD and getting experience of working on a military base in a place I had heard so much about but not many people get to visit. Being born in 1982 I didn’t have much knowledge of the Falkland Islands or the conflict here, but working in the Falklands intrigued me. Leaving behind a wife, young son and a dog to go and work on a remote island 8,000 miles away from home felt a little bit selfish, but I was sent packing with full support from all on what felt like a bit of an adventure. And, as I come to the end of my secondment, it’s an opportunity I am so pleased I took.

Work underway at Mare Harbour. [Crown Copyright/MOD2017]
Work underway at Mare Harbour. [Crown Copyright/MOD2017]
So, on Sunday July 9, 2017 I left RAF Brize Norton on one of the hottest days of the year wearing a suit for a 16 hour plane journey (someone had told me there was a dress code – there isn’t and everyone else was sensibly dressed in joggers and hoodies ready to be comfortable). I had many preconceptions of the Falkland Islands, mainly because colleagues had told me about their experiences; the weather, the roads, the people, the boredom, the cheap bars and so on but I knew had to make my own mind up. Within a few hours of landing I knew I had made the right decision; it was dark, cold, wet and windy, I landed in the middle of winter, but it was buzzing.

Personal Development

The role itself was a steep learning curve; I had limited project management experience but everyone was very accommodating, patient and helpful. After a solid handover I was up to speed with each project, outstanding issues and how my role fitted into process. I frequently worked six days a week and a few early mornings, usually on dial-ins with the UK. Working with a time difference takes a little getting used to! Work often carries into the evening, but this is in the Mess and is a chat over a beer. It has been very rewarding seeing the projects develop and grow and knowing that I have helped contribute to the delivery. Some of my most interesting times have been on the construction site, learning and helping, liaising with the military to solve problems faced by our contractors. I feel quite proud to work with the DIO contractors; they work hard, provide jobs for locals and fit in well on base and on island.

I am happy I have had the chance to work and live in the South Atlantic and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working in such an interesting environment. I have seen lots of wildlife including whales, sea lions, leopard and elephant seals, birds of prey and lots and lots of penguins.

One of the local penguins. [Crown Copyright/MOD2017]
One of the local penguins. [Crown Copyright/MOD2017]
I have been ‘aggressive camping’ as a team-building exercise with my military colleagues in DIO Service Delivery. I have been off-road driving, fishing, hill walking, taken battlefield tours, crossed the most southerly suspension bridge in the world and improved my photography skills with the local military camera club.  I’ve had drinks with the Governor of Stanley, dinner with the Falkland Islands’ Commander British Forces at his house and even swam with wild dolphins in the South Atlantic Ocean - in a wetsuit - on Berthas Beach.

Gypsy Cove on the Falkland Islands. [Crown Copyright/MOD2017]
Gypsy Cove on the Falkland Islands. [Crown Copyright/MOD2017]
I have made friends with who I am planning to meet with when back in the UK. I have enjoyed my time here so much my wife and I even considered taking a continuity role and moving south permanently. If anyone has the opportunity to work or visit the Falkland Islands I would urge you to grab the opportunity with both hands, you won’t regret it!

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1 comment

  1. Comment by David Lloyd posted on

    Enjoy it while you are there, get to South Georgia and the West Island if you can. I served there as a Royal Engineer in 1983.


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