Defence on the Dock

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces and public attend Defence on the Dock at Ogden Point, Victoria, September 17th 2023. PHOTO: Corporal Tristan Walach, Canadian Armed Forces Photo

Kateryna Bandura
Lookout Editor

It’s not every day a Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) frigate, a Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel (MCDV), and an Orca-class patrol vessel visit the Ogden Point Breakwater District at the same time.

But HMCS Winnipeg, HMCS Yellowknife, and PCT Raven all basked in attention at the fourth iteration of Defence on the Dock on Sept. 17. The event invited the community to better understand what takes place at CFB Esquimalt.

Defence on the Dock combined fun activities such as performances by Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) bands with hands-on opportunities including interactive knot-tying workshops and fighter jet cockpit displays to showcase the CAF’s capabilities.

Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members from varoius units local to Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Esquimalt and CFB Comox put on a display of CAF capabilities during the annual Defence on the Dock event held at Ogden Point, Victoria B.C, 17 September 2023. Photo: Corporal (Cpl) Jay Naples, MARPAC Imaging Services, Esquimalt

“The hope is people will gain a better appreciation of the Navy and its sailors,” said Lieutenant (Navy) (Lt(N)) Graham Arlett, Plans Officer onboard HMCS Winnipeg.

HMCS Winnipeg provided a ‘Ship Open to Visitors’ to raise the Navy’s profile and build ties within the community. The Winnipeg was one of the crowd favourites.

Judging by the size of the crowd, Lt(N) Arlett said the tours were successful.

Canadian Forces members greeting participants of the Defence On The Dock held at Ogden Point, Victoria, British Columbia on 17 September, 2023. PHOTO: Corporal William Gosse, MARPAC Imaging.

“There was a steady flow of people on the upper decks throughout the day,” he said. “Introducing sailors and connecting with citizens in this way helps to showcase the human side of the military. The hope is this leaves a positive impression with the public and gains support for the CAF in general.”

Besides showcasing the frigate, Defence on the Dock displayed an RCN capability that is rarely highlighted.

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces and public attend Defence on the Dock at Ogden Point, Victoria, September 17th 2023. PHOTO: Corporal Tristan Walach, Canadian Armed Forces Photo

“Our small patrol vessels don’t get a lot of attention, even though we provide up to 1,300 days of at-sea training per year,” said Lt(N) Mike Makow, a Naval Warfare Officer posted to Patrol Craft Training Unit (PCTU). “Many Canadians, especially on the coast, are aware of the Navy, but usually only hear about deploying units, and those are usually the MCDVs and frigates.”

PCTU puts ships to sea to provide real-world training for junior naval officers, where they practise their classroom knowledge at sea. The unit showcased Raven, an Orca-class patrol vessel, allowing the public to get on board a real patrol ship to see the conditions the sailors live and train in, and a chance to put their hands on the equipment such as fire hoses and navigational radars.

Lt(N) Makow attended as a visitor and brought his family to see what he and other military members do.

“My best moments were, of course, watching my young sons enjoy all the displays and dancing to the bands’ music,” he said.

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces and public attend Defence on the Dock at Ogden Point, Victoria, September 17th 2023. PHOTO: Corporal Tristan Walach, Canadian Armed Forces Photo

The sailors enjoyed talking face-to-face with interested attendees and answering questions about life onboard RCN vessels.

Sailor First Class (S1) Brandon Crawford, a Material Management Technician with the Canadian Submarine Force (CANSUBFOR), said seeing the public’s support and interest in submarine operations thrilled the crew.

“My highlight was engaging with the public and witnessing their keen interest in CANSUBFOR,” S1 Crawford said. “Despite the extensive planning involved in these events, the payoff is the public’s enthusiastic engagement and curiosity about our operations as well as all the smiles we get.”

Defence on the Dock was an opportunity for CANSUBFOR to provide a taste of what the submariners’ life is like below the waves and away from the public eye. The unit presented the submarine portable hyperbaric recompression chamber, two orange individual escape suits, an individual life raft, an oxygen generator, CO2 absorption canisters, some firefighting gear as well as a training pod used for emergency life saving systems.

Defence on the Dock was not only an opportunity for the sailors to increase the public’s awareness of the CAF’s mission, but also to grow as a team.

For Acting Sub-Lieutenant (A/SLt) Shayne Gordon Gilmar, Naval Warfare Officer with HMCS Yellowknife, witnessing his shipmates sharing experiences with the public was inspiring.

“You get to know your shipmates very well within the confines of a ship, but I genuinely believe it is through our stories that we truly learn about one another,” he said. “I could see the lights on the faces of both my fellow crew and the public as true connections were formed.”

HMCS Yellowknife provided tours of the vessel to increase public interest and engagement, offered a brief day sail to special guests and showcased the vessel’s unique maneuverability with a thrilling demonstration. According to A/SLt Gilmar, the Kingston-class MCDVs are unique warships within the fleet, as its Z-Drive thrusters provide an impressive degree of maneuverability that truly needs to be experienced to be appreciated.

“It was a particular joy of the sail for me to see the vessel driven aggressively to showcase its abilities,” he said. “Part of our mission for this sail was ‘Force Generation’; that does not simply mean the training of junior personnel but also inspiring future generations of CAF members.”

Summarizing the wrap-up of this year’s Defence on the Dock, Matt Carlson, Project Officer with CFB Esquimalt Public Affairs, said the event helped establish ties with the community and raise the RCN’s profile with the Canadian public.

“I enjoyed working with so many talented, knowledgeable and hardworking people leading up to and during our signature community relations event,” Carlson said. “Thanks to all who made the trip to the Ogden Point Breakwater District, and we look forward to seeing you again in the future.”

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