Meet Royal Naval Reservist Scott Sykes

June 26, 2024

Reservists give up their spare time to serve in the Reserve Forces, balancing their civilian life with a military career to ensure that should their country require them, they would be ready to serve.

The Reserve Forces make up approximately one-sixth of UK Armed Forces personnel and, as such, are integral to protecting the nation’s security at home and overseas, particularly by providing capability in specialist areas such as medical and cyber.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024, is Reserves Day, and we’re paying tribute to their hard work and dedication.

Sub Lieutenant Scott Sykes.

Sub Lieutenant Scott Sykes.

Scott Sykes (33) lives in Dundee with his wife and one-year-old son and is a Sub Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR).

Tell us about your career as a Reservist, when and where did it all start, what’s your current role, and what made you want to join up?

“I began my Reservist career with the Royal Naval Reserve in October 2017 as an Officer Cadet joining HMS Scotia based in HMS Caledonia, Rosyth.

“Currently, as a Junior Officer I am progressing through the General Warfare – Submarine Operations (SM Ops) specialisation training pipeline; ultimately to qualify as a Deputy Submarine Controller (DSC).

“This is primarily a safety and communications role and involves controlling NATO submarines to ensure their safety. Essentially planning and following Waterspace Management and Prevention of Mutual Interference procedures as well as to direct submarine Command and Control through the submarine broadcast. This is done both shoreside as a Submarine Operating Authority as well as at sea as a Submarine Advisory Team as part of a Carrier Task Force.

“Initially, I wanted to join the RNR for a number of reasons; the first of which was the desire for adventure and to have a positive impact as part of an organisation of both national and global importance. The second was to benefit from worthwhile experiences, opportunities and challenges both in enjoyment as well as personal and professional development, all the while getting paid to do so. The third was to determine if it was something I wanted to do as a full-time career.”

What’s the best part of being a Reservist?

“I can happily report that the RNR has delivered on all my reasons for joining, but I think the best part is the people and the flexibility. With regards to the people you will never meet a more impressive, diverse and friendly group of go-getters. With respect to flexibility, as a Reservist with a young family I find I get the best of both worlds. When able I can capitalise on the opportunities for adventure and Service which are many and varied such as seagoing mobilisation augmenting the Royal Navy but at a time, duration and frequency that best suits my familial and civilian career commitments and aspirations.”

Man skiing.

Swapping sea for snow in the French Alps.

Where has your Reservist career taken you?

“During my Initial Naval Training I attended Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth as part of the Accelerated Officer Programme. During my Initial Sea Time I was onboard HMS Trent during her maiden deployment on Operation Sea Guardian based in Gibraltar, so I got to experience patrolling the west Mediterranean. I have learned to sail yachts as part of the RNR Sailing Exercise every year in the Solent. I have been to Les Deux Alpes, France for the Royal Navy Snowsports Festival where I learned to ski as well as compete in races. I’ve had practical leadership courses in the Brecon Beacons, Wales. More recently I have been to Cyprus on exercise as part of my Submarine Operations specialisation training.”

Man looking through binoculars.

On the bridge of HMS Trent.

Do you have a favourite moment?

“I have enjoyed all my time in the RNR immensely and there are so many favoured moments, but if I had to choose a favourite or particularly memorable moment it would probably be when I was on my Initial Sea Time. I was on the Bridge onboard HMS Trent as part of our acquaint with the various departments. I had the opportunity to both issue conning orders (change direction and speed) as well as take the helm (steering) of the ship – all heavily and competently supervised of course. Perhaps there was something about doing ‘figure of eights’ in a Royal Navy warship in the Mediterranean during the Middle Watch that made it a particularly memorable Tuesday.”

Scott at the Queensferry Crossing.

Scott in his day job with BEAR Scotland.

Tell us about your civilian job.

“I am a Civil Engineer specialising in bridges and I work as a Bridge Engineer for BEAR Scotland Ltd. It is an operating company delivering infrastructure management and maintenance for the Scottish Trunk Road Network in partnership with Transport Scotland. Very different to my RNR role, but there are many transferable skills that complement one another. My role and responsibility as a Bridge Engineer is to provide professional engineering services to enable the effective and safe delivery of predominantly repair, renewal and replacement schemes for road structures such as bridges, culverts and retaining walls. During the investigation and design phases I carry out inspections as well as conduct structural design and produce technical drawings etc. During the construction phase I plan and manage the site works with special attention to health, safety, welfare and quality management.”

Being a Reservist requires time off work, how does your employer support those demands?

“I consider myself lucky to have a very supportive employer that recognises the benefits of my service in the RNR.

“BEAR Scotland has a fully developed Reservist Policy and as an Armed Forces Covenant signatory provides me with 10 days of fully paid leave for Reservist commitments. My company also offers holiday purchase and special unpaid leave on top of this should it be required. For example BEAR Scotland had provided me with two months of leave to allow attendance of an Accelerated Officers Programme with the RNR. This fast-tracked my Initial Naval Training, condensing what would have taken 2.5 years if conducted part-time into just a few months.

“With regards to mobilisation the company has a framework in place which safeguards my employment should I be mobilised under the Reserve Forces Act. BEAR Scotland has recently submitted its application for the Gold Award as part of the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS), having earned the Silver Award last year.”

Two guests at an awards event.

Scott (right) at the 2023 Defence Employer Recognition Scheme Silver Awards in Perth with BEAR Scotland colleague Ian Stewart.

What skills have you gained as a Reservist that enhance your civilian role?

“I think the highest on the list are the leadership and management skills but I think there are also qualities that I developed such as resilience, versatility and adaptability. Much of my initial training and subsequent role as an Officer is focused on developing and maintaining these skills and knowledge in a challenging environment. This has without doubt enhanced my capability and confidence in my civilian job as an engineer, particularly in a leadership role managing others in an office as well as site environment. For example I became much more proficient at providing briefs and presentations as well as public speaking such as inducting large groups of operatives on site. I became more conscious of my duties regarding the welfare and the development of others as well as to lead through example and to maintain others’ confidence in me. I also became more assertive when on site ensuring safety and quality procedures were followed. The list goes on.”

One final question, what would you tell a friend or colleague who was interested in becoming a Reservist?

“To go for it. I find you regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did do and my only regret is I didn’t join sooner.”