Three Royal Navy officers trained at BRNC are named in the operational honours list

By Sam Acourt in Community News

Three Royal Navy Commanders who were trained at Britannia Royal Naval College have been rewarded in the operational honours list.

Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines have been rewarded for going the extra mile as the 47th operational honours list was revealed on Friday, April 21.

A spokesperson for the Royal Navy said: “The list includes servicemen and women from across the Naval Service who have displayed bravery, commitment and meritorious service on a wide variety of operations across the globe.

“From taking part in counter-Daesh operations in the Middle East to helping prevent people smuggling in the Mediterranean, these sailors and Royal Marines have demonstrated exceptional skill and commitment on missions to keep Britain safe and protect the nation’s economy.”

The three BRNC-trained officers are Commander Stephen Higham, Commander Mark Vartan and Commander Richard Hutchings.

Commander Stephen Higham, 42, from Oxfordshire, has been appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire – OBE.

Commander Stephen Higham was the Commanding Officer of Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender during her recent deployment to the Middle East supporting international counter-Daesh operations.

The spokesperson explained: “During the nine months the ship was deployed, Defender broke records and set new standards as an air defence warship.

“Despite the stresses and strains that a nine-month deployment puts on any complex warship, not a single day of operational tasking was lost due to defects under Cdr Higham’s leadership.

“The result was that HMS Defender regularly supported US and French carrier groups launching strikes on Iraq and Syria to counter the threat from Daesh.

“The Portsmouth-based ship was also responsible for tackling drug smuggling, at one point seizing over a tonne of hashish being trafficked across the Indian Ocean.”

Cdr Higham said: “I am hugely proud to receive this honour on behalf of the men and women who worked alongside me over the course of our deployment. The success of our time away was hard fought and hard won and it was a huge team effort.

“The average age of my ship’s company during the deployment was in the low 20s, and they proved themselves to be a resilient, professional group of people who worked tirelessly to get the job done.

“We pushed the boundaries of what a Type 45 destroyer can do, something which our sister ship HMS Daring is now continuing to do on their deployment in the Middle East today.”

Commander Mark Vartan, 47, from Fareham has been appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire – OBE.

Commander Vartan was the Commanding Officer of HMS Enterprise, which returned home to Plymouth this week after a three-year deployment sailing across the globe and saving thousands of lives at sea.

The spokesperson continued: “Enterprise was at the heart of operations to prevent people smuggling in the Mediterranean. She evacuated more than 200 British citizens from Libya, rescued 9,180 people attempting to undertake deadly crossings of the Mediterranean and destroyed 117 unseaworthy vessels used by people traffickers.

“Cdr Vartan, who is originally from Poole, led the Plymouth-based ship from July 2014 until September 2016, guiding his team through the wide variety of tasks and operations they were called upon to perform.”

He said: "Hearing I had received this honour was a real ray of sunshine. I feel honoured to have been chosen to receive this award which goes to show the exceptional results of HMS Enterprise and all those who have served on board over the last three years.

“Although I no longer have command of the ship, I was really pleased to see them return home to Plymouth this week at the end of a job very well done.”

Commander Richard Hutchings has been awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service.

Cdr Hutchings is the former Commanding Officer of HMS St Albans, who led the ship during its recent nine-month deployment to the Gulf. During that time, the ship had joined the US and French navies in the fight against Daesh.

The spokesperson concluded: “The ship also had major success tackling the problem of drugs smuggling, seizing 320kg of cannabis with an estimated value of £1m just days into her deployment.

“Cdr Hutchings was credited for working with several different nations while on operations in the Middle East, enhancing the Royal Navy’s reputation and leading to multiple operational successes.”

You can find out more about the operational honours list by clicking here: www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/news/2017/april/21/170421-operational-honours-list-revealed

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