How long have you been in the navy?
I've been in for about a year and a half, three months of basic in Quebec and the rest of the time on the west coast.
What is your role in the navy? Tell us about it.
I'm a Navcomm (Naval Communicator) born and raised. I originally wanted to go in as military police, due to my post secondary in Criminology, but decided that just straight up sailing life would prove to be more entertaining. At the recruiting office, I was offered a lot of career choices, mostly because of having post secondary, but Navcomm stood out to me the most. I'm not entirely sure what it was that turned me on to the trade, but I have no regrets about it.
What encouraged you to join?
Being unemployed during a recession certainly helped my decision, but it was my mom that gave me the suggestion. At first it seemed unreal, the idea of me being in the military, since my family has little to no history of it. She pushed for Navy, most likely because it seemed safer than going in as infantry, but who can say for sure. So I went around and asked people about their naval experiences, friends of the family, and decided that I'd be a good fit for it.
Do you have family members in the military or reserves? If yes, who?
My uncle Wayne, who married into the family, was in the Navy for some 20 years making it to the rank of Master Seaman. He was very educated on the subject, and showed me all the things he had collected during his time in (lighters, coins, etc). He talked it up, mentioning all sides of it and was rather encouraging. Other than him, no one in my family did regular military or reserves as far as I know, although I think my grandpa on my dad's side who may have been a part of WWII.
Where else have you worked? How does it compare?
I worked at a grocery store straight out of high school, and when that appeared to have no future, I moved on to working at a warehouse, cold storage-style. It was good times, but I had to let it go. I had a series of throw-away jobs after that, getting laid off from most of them due to the wretched economy. After the last one, I was unemployed for a while before getting in to the Navy. None of the jobs prior to this can even compare, because now I feel like I'm doing something important, or at least something relevant to my country.
Do you have a family? Tell us about them.
I have my mom, who remains in my hometown and sends me encouraging words and the occasional care package (socks, candy, baked goods), and several aunts and an uncle all in various parts of BC. My sister lives out in Hamilton, Ontario but really needs to come visit more often. And while I don't have the whole standard wife and kids thing going on, I do have a girlfriend who I care very much for and miss dearly, and she knows it too. Yeah, my family is pretty rad.
What has been the most valuable lesson learned in the navy?
Don't listen to rumors, or things that you hear around the proverbial smoke pit. Some people will say one thing, and then you'll hear something completely different from another. Always go to the source if you have a question regarding something that involves you because that's the only place you'll get a straight answer. Another lesson learned is to respect the rank of the higher ups because they likely know a lot more than you do. That's one of the great things of the Navy, no matter how far you go, there's always something more to learn from someone.
What message do you have for people who may be interested in joining the navy?
Absolutely go for it. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the Navy is the best thing I've done with my life. You get to serve your country, earn the respect of people who support this beautiful country of ours, get paid to travel the world and make Canada look good to the international community, and there's always opportunities to reach out to the public. It's a selfless job, and it can be a lot of hard work, but it's also very rewarding, and almost anyone will come out the other side better for the experience. In other words, it's awesome.
What surprised you the most about the navy?
The discipline involved is unreal. Right from the start, you're taught to call higher ranked NCMs by their rank, rather than saying sir or ma'am. In the previous jobs, I often referred to customers or other employees as either of those titles as a sign of respect, but now it's reserved for officers only. Also, maintaining your kit is a pretty serious thing, ie. making yourself presentable. After all, you're representing the military to the public and to the world so looking your best is of high importance. But I think what surprised me the most is the people. Everyone around your rank is in the same exact situation as you and Navy life is very conducive to teamwork. Being in a group of 200 people on a ship requires cooperation, which is a skill that needs to be learned regardless of what trade you may find yourself in.
What are your future goals with the navy?
I want to get at least to the rank that my uncle did or maybe surpass it in a shorter amount of time. It's kind of like a race and I want to prove to myself that I can do it. Sure there will be obstacles, and in fact there already have been, but it can always be overcome. I realized this recently and want to stay in until retirement age to get a nice, pension for my efforts.
What ships have you sailed in?
The HMCS Ottawa is my first ship, since I only finished my classroom training phase in February of 2011. I was attach posted for a few weeks, which became a few months during the workups phase, and now I'm attached until at least the end of Westploy. I enjoy the company of the ship and the people really make it worthwhile. Ever since I joined I've met hundreds of new people, and being on the HMCS Ottawa has really allowed me to make new friends in a relatively comfortable environment.
What is a typical day in your role of the navy like?
That depends if we're alongside in Esquimalt harbour or not. If we are, then it's just ensuring that everything is functioning correctly, and that secure for sea requirements aren't going to be a hassle. While sailing, I've been doing my shipboard training phase and learning the finer details of the Navcomm world. In two months of Westploy I've already learned more than the previous year and I fully expect it to continue.
What is the typical reaction you get when you tell people you’re in the navy?
All of my family love it, and support it immensely. My friends back home in Abbotsford, BC seem to like the fact that I'm off doing something as epic as this even though they miss having me around all the time for various antics. People who are friends of the family, the older crowd, are always excited to hear of my latest adventures and escapades and can relate, some having served before. Even new people I'm introduced to are generally supportive of it and of our military in general. Unfortunately there are a few people out there who don't support the idea of the military, but it's usually strangers and I keep them as such.
What are some misconceptions about the navy?
I've heard that some people think it's the slacker part of the military, and that the army does all of the real work. Sure, they do their own thing, but it's like comparing apples and oranges. Each one serves the country in a different capacity, and there will be similarities and differences that become more or less obvious depending on their theatre of operation. But both of them, along with the Air Force, are all an integral part of the defense of Canada in their own unique ways, with none of them being better or worse than the other. All three are necessary, and when combined make for one heck of an awesome military. Canada is the best country in the world, and we all work together to keep it safe and respected throughout the world.