Five questions with Commander Annick Fortin

HMCS Winnipeg Commanding Officer, Commander Annick Fortin, portrait taken near the coast of Hawaii during RIMPAC on Wednesday July 20, 2022. Photo: Sailor First Class Melissa Gonzalez, Canadian Armed Forces Imagery Technician.

Capt Christine MacNeil, 
HMCS Winnipeg PAO

From Trois-Rivières to Captain of a Royal Canadian Navy Warship

Commander Annick Fortin was raised in Trois-Rivières, QC. She graduated from Polyvalente Chavigny High School in 1991 and immediately joined the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), looking for adventure and the opportunity to serve her country.

What is your military background?

I attended the College Militaire Royal (CMR) de St. Jean, QC., and Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., earning a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Commerce. Each summer, I was sent to Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt to conduct the various levels of Naval Warfare Officer (NWO) training.

Following completion of university and my NWO training, I first served in the fleet as a Bridge Watchkeeper. As my career progressed, I started to specialize as an Above Water Warfare Officer, Deck Officer, Operations Room Officer, Executive Officer, and finally, Commanding Officer.

I also earned a Master of Defence Studies from Canadian Forces College in Toronto.

Which ships have you served in?

I have served on various Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) ships, from destroyers to frigates.

I also worked ashore at Sea Training (Pacific), Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre Vancouver, Strategic Joint Staff, Director General Naval Force Development Office, and Naval Fleet School Esquimalt, first as the Fleet Support Training Officer and returning as the Commandant in 2019.

Which Operations did you take part in?

During my times at sea, I deployed as part of Operation (Op) Apollo in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Op Altair in the Persian Gulf, Op Podium in support of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Op Reassurance and Op Sea Guardian, NATO’s marine security operation in the Mediterranean Sea.

What does the role of a Commanding Officer entail?

I assumed command of HMCS Winnipeg in March 2022, the first female Commander of a major Royal Canadian Navy warship on the West Coast. Since then, I have led the ship and the crew through intense pre-deployment training and preparations, and finally, departing on the actual deployment in the South China Sea as part of a six-month deployment on board HMCS Winnipeg.

As the Commanding Officer, I am responsible and accountable for the safety of the ship and the crew; by providing overall direction and guidance to carry out our mission.

What is your favourite part of your job?

Everything! Being part of a team that can accomplish amazing things across a wide spectrum! Leading, taking risks, making a difficult decision, representing Canada, seeing success, appreciating resiliency and dedication, motivating, mentoring and developing our future sailors, leading the way, being a role model, being humble, listening to the stories, being in the moment without forgetting the future, but enjoying and being grateful for every challenge, success, experience and everyone that I have had the honour to serve with. I love it all!

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