British Frigate Comes To Gulfport For Training Exercise

Petty Officer Trevor Grantham works in the HMS Richmond's missile room. His skills will be tested next week when the British frigate participates in an American training exercise.

When Grantham was asked what he thinks of the American military, he smiled and said, "They're okay."

Lt. Cmdr. Steve Sugden said the smile spoke volumes about how the two allies work together. "There is no barrier really between American and British forces," Sugden said. "We do get along very well and work together very well."

That will be evident when the Richmond leaves the Port of Gulfport and participates in a military exercise with the United States. The training was scheduled more than a year before the terrorist attacks on America. Cmdr. Alistair Adams said those attacks have changed how the Royal Navy ship operates.

"We've always been careful," Cmdr. Adams said. "But now it's just opened up a whole new Pandora's box of possibilities and risks. And it's a case of protecting yourself the best you can."

So armed sentries guard the entrance to the British ship. And sailors have been told to be more aware of what's around them.

As Lt. Cmdr. Sugden walked toward the frigate's stern, he said, "We're here to do a job at the end of the day. We continue our daily functions and our job."

The Gulf of Mexico training exercise is a five-day test. Cmdr. Adams said the Richmond is ready for battle if Britain calls it to duty.

"It's a possibility the way the world is going," he said. "I think most of us in the military, because we know what the hardware can do, are pacifists at heart. And we'd rather not get into those sorts of scrapes. But if push comes to shove, we have to go do what we're paid to do. And we're going to do the best we can."

It took the Richmond 15 days and 4,900 miles to get from the United Kingdom to Gulfport.

According to the schedule, the British frigate leaves Sunday so it can spend five days in the Gulf of Mexico. Then a week from Friday, it docks at the Port of Pascagoula, so the British sailors can have two more days of rest in South Mississippi.