Outreach visit strives to eliminate naval blindness
Original article posted in the Lookout on Mar 26, 2019 – Peter Mallett, Staff Writer
A remote community on Vancouver Island is welcoming vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy to its main harbour this weekend.
Four Orca-class Patrol Craft Training (PCT) vessels and 96 crew members will come alongside Small Craft Federal Marina in Port McNeill as part of Exercise Northern Reach.
Located at the northeastern tip of Vancouver Island on the Queen Charlotte Strait, the former logging town, turned summertime tourism destination, has a population of approximately 3,000 residents.
Lieutenant Commander Todd Kennedy, Commander Venture Division, says “the exercise is a continued effort by the navy to combat the nation-wide phenomena of maritime blindness” by helping Canadians learn about their navy and the job it does on behalf of the country.
“Many Canadians know very little about their own navy or even that it exists; so, to be relevant to the population we need to be out there and visible,” said LCdr Kennedy. “This is an effort to showcase what we do, how we train, and to demonstrate pride in our diversity as an organization. We want people to know we are the employer of choice and if there exists a desire to contribute to Canada and its international policies, that we have a job for you.”
PCT vessels Orca, Caribou, Raven and Wolf will be staffed by fleet personnel and Venture students from the Fleet Navigating and Naval Warfare Officers courses needing the fundamental bridge skills training to prepare them for employment in operational ships. Each student is seeking the opportunity to advance their professional competencies.
While in Port McNeill between March 29 and April 1, two vessels will take residents and community leaders to sea, showcasing interoperability with the Royal Canadian Air Force, who have tasked a Maritime Patrol Aircraft from CFB Comox, and the Canadian Coast Guard, who have tasked a Bell 429 helicopter. The remaining two Orca vessels will remain alongside, and open up for guided tours throughout March 30.
The outreach effort and exercise will also involve 20 reservists from a Canadian Ranger Patrol Group.
The Pacific Fleet Commander, Commodore Angus Topshee is also attending the community relations event, along with representatives from the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group.
Lastly, a three-person forward logistics site will be established in Port McNeill to support the exercise, and Canadian Armed Forces recruiting personnel, with a navy recruiting bus, will be present to give the community insight into the navy.
The outreach effort will also involve a charitable donation by the Boomer’s Legacy Foundation, facilitated by LCdr Kennedy on behalf of Maritime Forces Pacific and the local detachment of the RCMP. They will distribute 70 knitted toques, 70 knitted dolls and two knitted blankets to a Port McNeill non-profit, the Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre in Port Hardy.