The prudent warrior Julius Caesar said, For lack of training they lacked knowledge, for lack of knowledge they lacked confidence, for lack of confidence they lacked victory.

Thus, training and the imparting of knowledge to build and sustain confidence is vital. This aura of consistent training still prevails at the NMA. The Naval & Maritime Academy recently celebrated its golden jubilee.

Located at Trincomalee, within the jurisdiction of the Eastern Naval Command, the Academy has sailed steadily to success, overcoming many challenges. Today, the NMA has grown to have 22 specialized schools of learning, including, the OTW- Officer Training Wing which takes in officer cadets and ensures that they pass out as Sub- Lieutenants. Sailors also learn their trade here in 3 phases during their service in the Navy. The massive complex which can train 2,000 personnel, occupies a large extent of land within an overall land area of 850 acres, where the Ostenburg Fort once stood in her days of maritime glory.

As I entered the NMA archway there were cadets going to class. One of the first things that struck me was the role of the faithful Quarter Master. This sailor is the guardian of the officer under trainees, as he carefully makes note of the movements of every batch of trainees. The Quarter Master also provides another crucial task of ringing the bell, which denotes the various activities within the Academy.

Formation of NMA

In 1951, a naval training camp was established in the salubrious hills of Diytalawa. The camp was commissioned as HMCyS Rangalla; its first officer in charge was Lieutenant Proctor. It is believed that this name came from the hill Rahangala, which overlooked the camp. Its primary focus was recruit training. In 1963, the camp was relocated to Kochchikade. Later in 1965, a seaman training camp was set up in Trincomalee named HMCys Parakrama. In July 1967, the Naval and Maritime Academy was commissioned with its first commandant being Commander MGS Perera. He was a dynamic man with innovative and strategic thinking who set a solid foundation for the Academy. M.G.S Perera at that time held a Licentiate in Mechanical Engineering, and served as a Petty Officer before being commissioned as a Lieutenant. As an instructor his greatest competence was being able to relate to the level of a student’s intelligence. He worked with dedication to set up the Academy within a challenging time period of 18 months. At this stage the Academy had only five departments: Nautical, Engineering, Electrical, Communications and Supply.

For 23 years Commander Perera served the Navy inspiring officers and sailors. He retired as Director Naval Training. Even today, his name is spoken with reverence among the instructors. Before the setting up of the NMA officer cadets were sent to the Britannia Royal College, Dartmouth, UK. The motto of the Academy is “The disciplined are the noblest of men”. Today, the NMA has received ISO certification. As I gazed at the photos of former commandants of this magnificent Academy I was able to observe the names of those who rose to command the Navy: H. A. Silva, W.W.E. Clancy Fernando, H. A. C.Tissera, D.W.K Sandagiri, W.K.J. Karannagoda, R.C.Wijegunaratne, T. J. L. Sinniah and S. S. Ranasinghe.

Officer Training

Accompanied by Lt. Hettiarchchi, I began my tour inside the Officer Training Wing. One of the first classrooms I walked into was full of under trainees learning Tamil language: the Navy has clearly understood the importance of cultural diversity. The OTW was established in 1992 under Lt. Cdr. T.M.J. Mendis. The present Training Captain is Capt. N. K. B. Jayasinghe, who was also produced by this same Academy. Officer Trainees are taken in via Cadet Entry, Direct Entry (degree holders), Service Entry and those enrolled at the KDU (Kotelawela Defence University). The cadets begin their long day at 4.45 am and engage in physical training. After breakfast they muster at the parade ground. Academic classes begin by 8.30 am. In Naval terminology lunch is referred to as dinner (orientation for sailing routine at sea) and consumed at 1.30 in the afternoon. After this cadets have time until 4.15 pm where they engage in group sports that include tennis, volleyball, cricket, basketball, football and swimming.

By 6 pm they have supper and prepare for the night rounds. During night rounds an officer (Lieutenant Commander) visits and inspects the accommodation areas of the cadets. They have to be dressed in their ‘black & white’ mess uniforms. Those not meeting the mark receive punitive discipline. Cadets also get 14 days of intense combat training in the jungle. They get holidays in April, August and December when they can return home. After completing a year of training, cadets are promoted to Mid-Shipmen and wear the epaulette with a white cord. After another year of training they are commissioned as acting Sub- Lieutenant and receive a degree. Thereafter, they engage in another 6 months of training. Mid-Shipmen in the Executive Branch go onboard the various naval vessels for enhanced training. There are opportunities to learn in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China and USA. A new feature at the NMA is that all officer cadets learn the art of sailing as a sport.

Expansion of NMA

Driving around the academy I was able to visit many of the 22 schools that train both, officers and sailors. The schools include Navigation, Engineering, Communication, Marksmanship & Sniper Training, Information Technology, Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Combat Training, Seamanship, Anti-Submarine Warfare, Diving, Physical Training. Gunnery, Damage Control and Fire Fighting, Medical School, Provost & Regulating, Supply & Secretariat, English Language School and Civil Engineering. The NMA also conducts the Long Logistics Management course for officers leading to an MBA degree.The founding Father of the American Navy, John Paul Jones said, “It is by no means enough that an officer of the Navy should be a capable mariner. He must be that and a great deal more. He shall be a gentleman of liberal education, refined manners, courtesy and a nice sense of personal humour.” I was able to witness this being inculcated at the NMA. This great academy has produced dedicated officers and sailors who continue to form our island’s first line of defence.