By CASSANDRA YEOH and PHYLLIS HO
MAX Barber is not your typical young adult. At 21, he doesn’t have a Facebook account, does not party, and does not get drunk in pubs. You’d think his life is boring, but he is a Sub Lieutenant of the HMS Daring, Britain’s most advanced warship.
The BRATs had a chat with him during the warship’s visit to Port Klang last weekend. Smartly dressed in white from head to toe, Barber gave the media a tour around the warship.
It has been a year and a half since Barber was commissioned, and his job involves serious responsibilities. “I’d say I’ve got personal discipline so I’m quite self-motivated. That’s what you need to have to be an officer,” he said.
“Sometimes if you’re the one in-charge, you can’t expect people to follow you if you have no motivation yourself. Part of being a leader is having the ability to encourage yourself and others.”
Every day, he wakes up at 7am and spends three four-hour shifts at the bridge, the room where the captain and other officers command the ship. In between, he mostly exercises and has his meals.
Spending days and nights out on the sea can be mundane, but Barber explained that there are a number of social events on board to keep spirits up.
“To release stress, we’ve got lots of different navy sports like deck hockey, and exercises with our physical training team,” he said, adding that he rarely gets stressed.
Barber has a burning passion for the marine line. The young officer plans to become a captain, which according to him, will take about 15 to 16 years of training.
We asked if he feels left out not enjoying the same activities as his peers back home, but Barber said, “I wouldn’t say I’m missing out. I’m having a lot of fun doing this now. I think I’m probably having more fun than anybody else.
“I’ll still have a lot of opportunities to do things with my friends when I go home. But right now I’m here to do my job. I’m employed by the government so I have to be professional.”
Barber enjoys the lifestyle of travelling around the world, meeting new people and seeing new places. Stopping by different ports has proved his belief stronger, that the sky is the limit and not the sea.
“I always thought that maybe you’ll get 80 years of your life, if you’re very lucky. I think it’s a shame to waste it not doing what you want to do. If I have something I want to achieve, I’ll always be chasing that. I’d never be happy just sitting still watching the world pass by around me. I’ve seen a lot of the world so far. It’s a big place, and there’s a lot to do,” he said.
Despite all the fun, Barber told us that sometimes it’s hard to be away from home, since sailing can go on for months. Every crew member is only given 30 minutes per week to call home.
When asked who he misses most, he replied: “I probably miss my girlfriend the most [laughs]. And of course my parents too.
“I’ve got a couple more weeks on board until we get back in February, and then the crew members don’t get to see each other again until the end of the year, so I’ve got lots of time at home while the ship’s in Portsmouth,” he said.
The HMS Daring’s visit to Malaysia was part of an exercise under the Five Powers Defence Arrangement, which also involved Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore.
Equipped with a powerful missile system and military weapons, the HMS Daring is a Type 45 Destroyer designed to protect fleets from air attacks. The warship provides humanitarian aid when needed as well, such as during the Haiyan typhoon in the Philippines.