Argyll & Bute MP Brendan O’Hara spent a few days in the Arctic Circle last week with the Royal Marine Commandos… and bumped into one of his Helensburgh constituents.
Brendan, one of just 30 MPs and Peers to have been selected to join of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, flew out from RAF Brize Norton to Bardufoss Airbase in northern Norway to join the Royal Marines at their winter training base in Asegarden.
The MP also learned the basics of cross-country skiing, how to build a survival shelter and fire in the forest, before spending a night under canvas in sub-zero temperatures with Marines’ Mountain Leaders.
Commenting, Brendan said; “It was an unforgettable experience and one I am very privileged to have had. The Royal Marines, as I knew they would be, could not have been more welcoming and supportive. Their professionalism is exemplary and the level to which they train, simply outstanding.”
“The benefit of this parliamentary scheme is that it gives MPs the opportunity to speak freely to service personnel, completely unsupervised, so everyone can talk freely and openly about what concerns they may have. As well as going out with the Mountain Leaders, I also spent time with the commanding officer, the chefs, the drivers and the medics.”
Brendan said: “I was being shown round the medical facilities by a Marine with a Scottish accent. I asked where he was from and I was absolutely amazed when he replied, Helensburgh. It was a bit strange standing in the Arctic Circle with someone discussing how good Colquhoun Square is looking these days and debating what the best Chippie in the town is. It was without doubt, the most unusual constituency surgery I have had so far. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I promised him that when he gets back on leave I’d return his hospitality and take him for a coffee in town.”
Mr. O’Hara is the SNP frontbench spokesperson on Defence and the trip to the Arctic follows on from other fact-finding missions last year to military establishments in the Falklands and to the to the Army’s training facility, BATUS in Canada.
Brendan: “It is hugely important that MPs see at first-hand what an outstanding job our armed forces personnel do and I cannot thank enough the Royal Marines for giving me the opportunity to join them at Asegarden. After almost two years on this scheme I have even greater respect for our armed forces and the training they endure to make sure they are ready for anything, whether entering a conflict, responding to a natural disaster or peacekeeping duties”.