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Fleet school instructor looks back on ‘sweet’ career

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Peter Mallett
Staff Writer
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Petty Officer Second Class Richard Beaumont’s retirement cake was made and decorated to showcase his 32 years of sweet success in the Royal Canadian Navy.

The cake, shaped as an anchor and covered in a gold fondant, measured 17 by 49 inches – the age when he started and when he finished in the navy. Hand piped on the anchor shaft were the classes of ships he sailed in and the trade motto.

“The symbolism on the cake told my naval story to a degree that became an interesting talking point,” he says. “Also included in the design was a compass, symbolic of setting a new course in life; a Kisbee ring, if the plan goes awry; a golden Turtle for crossing the Equator numerous times, and some rust colouring for being an old salt of the seas.”

The 49-year-old now retired naval combat information operator (NCIOP) gathered with family, co-workers, and former shipmates for his Depart with Dignity Ceremony at the Chiefs and Petty Officers’ Mess on Aug. 5.

A second cake was also made with the Naval Combat Information Operator trade badge on it. 

“I’m amongst the very few left to have signed up as a Radar Plotter before the trade changed names and MOC number,” he says. “There are still some RPs left but they are mostly promoted out of the trade.”

17 to 49

His sea legs started as a member of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps in his hometown of Edmonton. As soon as he turned 17, he joined the naval reserves and discovered finding his sea legs meant “ditching the Gravol.”

Before he landed his last position as an instructor at Naval Fleet School (Pacific), he sailed on numerous deployments.

“I went on four SAR [Search and Rescue] missions, participated in numerous missile shoots, interdiction operations, deployments, way too many task group exercises, and two Persian [Gulf] excursions,” he says. “There was also exploring Malaysia with my friend PO1 Jimmo, and Darwin with PO2 Thorne and many of my watch members.”

He sailed on most of the former Porte-class gate vessels of the west coast, the destroyers HMC Ships Saskatchewan and Annapolis, minesweeper HMCS Chignecto, HMC Ship Algonquin and Huron, and most of the current commissioned vessels of the Pacific fleet.

During his career, he witnessed the progression of no fewer than six different combat systems. Despite massive changes to the fleet, sweeping technological advancement in radar technology is what stood out the most, he says. 

“The greatest advancement in my trade is the technology used to share information with our allies. Specifically, LINK AIS and IFF, and the continued evolution and development of these systems that remarkably improve what we know beyond the horizon with the exchange of information automatic.”

The Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system is now far beyond the old light pens previously used to identify aircraft modes and codes, he adds. AIS saves an incredible amount of time when hailing a ship by radio to discuss navigation and passing intentions. This and other technical changes in the navy helped him in teaching the trade and gave him insight into the big picture and significance to NCIOP candidates.

He taught various qualification levels of the trade between 2007 and 2011 and again in 2020.

But the tools of the NCIOP and the advancement in naval technology are now in his rear-view mirror. Beaumont says not being able to go to sea was a major factor that led him to retire from the military.

“The last eight years of my service taught me that I was capable of doing more, but those challenges lay outside of the CAF. Not being able to go to sea and do the job is very important to me, so I’m plotting a new course.”

His working days aren’t over, he is just shifting gears.

He is currently studying Nautical Sciences at Camosun College where he is earning his 500-tonn master qualification as he explores job options within the marine sector as a tugboat operator or possible employment with BC Ferries or the Coast Guard.

As it that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, the motorcycle enthusiast is the owner and head instructor of his own small business Learn to Ride Motorcycle Training Ltd. www.Learntoride.ca

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