Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~
A few days before Christmas break, Commander Michele Tessier was offered a major command coup.
In a meeting with Cmdre Jeff Zwick, Commander Canadian Fleet Pacific, she was offered the captain’s chair on board HMCS Margaret Brooke, the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) second Harry DeWolf-Class Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessel (AOPV).
“I was humbled to hear the news to be honest; it was a really emotional moment for me,” she said. “You’re lucky to get one command at sea, so to be selected for a second is quite an honour.”
She commanded HMCS Nanaimo from 2010 to 2013, which she says was the highlight of her career.
The rollout of the Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels is expected to start in 2018. HMCS Margaret Brooke will be the second ship off the assembly line. Cdr Tessier will begin her new job that summer to prepare for the command.
Her appointment was determined by the Naval Succession Planning Board, a body made up of senior RCN leadership that determines operational command positions.
The graduate of Memorial University’s English literature program grew up in Grand Bank, NL. She is the granddaughter of a fishing trawler captain, and she says the salt water is in her blood.
Cdr Tessier joined the Naval Reserves in 1996 at HMCS Cabot in St. John’s, NL, and completed basic officer training at the now closed Canadian Forces Officer Candidate School in Chilliwack, BC. Her resume is peppered with notable appointments including Commanding Officer of the Naval Reserve Division HMCS Griffon in Thunder Bay, ON, and Commander Coastal Forces Pacific, her current post.
The Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessel project is being carried out at Halifax Shipyard. Once deployed, the new vessels will help enforce Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic, Pacific, and Atlantic by providing armed sea-borne surveillance and response in Canada’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
“It’s starting from scratch with a new class of ship that is bigger than the Kingston Class and heavier than the Halifax Class frigates , which is exciting,” Cdr Tessier said.
The 103-metre diesel-electric propulsion vessels will have a compliment of 65 personnel. Features of the vessel include helicopter capability; Polar Class 5+ ice breaker hull equipped with bow thrusters, enabling the ship to manoeuvre or berth without tug assistance and operate in medium first-year ice up to one metre thickness; a modern bridge-navigation system; an automated remote-controlled 25 mm gun, and a large vehicle bay capable of storing pickup trucks, ATVs and snowmobiles.
To enhance her understanding of conditions in Canada’s far north, Cdr Tessier, along with Cdr Corey Gleason, Commanding Officer of HMCS Harry DeWolf, will join the Canadian Coast Guard in the Arctic this summer, and again in 2018 for Arctic navigation and operations training. Some areas of focus will include Arctic-specific climate, currents, and methods of operating a vessel in water obstructed by ice.
“While I have very basic ice-navigation training and experiences sailing in Alaskan waters, the RCN doesn’t have a lot of Arctic expertise,” said Cdr Tessier. “It’s a little daunting because I have so much to learn, not only about the Arctic component, but all the other pieces as well. I’m looking forward to getting onboard with Cdr Gleason in 2018 to start my “Know-Your-Ship” book and become familiar with our newest class of ship.”
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