Head of navy imparts final thoughts

Vice Admiral Maddison, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy

Vadm Paul Maddison, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, arrives on board HMCS Calgary as part of his week-long tour.

Last week, VAdm Paul Maddison made a special week-long trip to Victoria, a sort of finale tour to his tenure as Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy.

In two weeks, he will retire, ending a 30-year naval career.

However, before he officially hangs up his uniform, he wanted to visit his naval community and share a few key messages.

At CFB Esquimalt, this included a series of town halls. 

“As Commander I have visited Quebec, Halifax and about nine or 10 Naval Reserve Divisions across the country, but I saved the best one for last,” he told the Chiefs and Petty Officers gathered at the Pacific Fleet Club. “It’s been almost two years since I’ve been here, and a lot has happened in that time. Today I want to talk about the four principal themes that shape the Canadian Navy: purpose, platform, people and pride.”
With the full attention of everyone in the room, he went on to explain those themes.

Purpose, he says, is protecting the seaways, and ensuring the safe travel of goods. 

“Our economy floats on salt water,” he explained. “…Most Canadians can’t imagine what we do at sea, but if we explain it to them, they understand we have ships for a reason.”

He also reminded his sailors of the need to thwart the travel of illegal goods, something the Royal Canadian Navy is actively engaged in through various operations, such as HMCS Toronto’s work in the Arabian Sea, and HMCS Regina and HMCS Ottawa’s drug busts earlier in the year.

“That is why, as Canadians, we need to have a navy ready to fight if we need to. It is our purpose. The future fleet is going to grow and everything we do has a purpose in the navy.”

To have a platform to work from you need a fleet, he added.

“Frigates will be the backbone and the bridge to the future,” he said citing the Halifax Class Modernization/Frigate Life Extension program.

Included in the future platform will be new ships.

“Arctic patrol ships will begin being built in 2015, which is an exciting new capability for us.

“The destroyers are approaching the end of their life after 45 years, and will be replaced by Joint Support Ships that are ready for construction in 2017, at the same time as the Canadian Coast Guard’s new polar-class icebreaker.”

He also discussed the final stage of HMCS Protecteur’s life. Once it goes into refit the clock will count down on its final five years.

Recruiting the best people for naval jobs is always in the thoughts of senior staff, he said, as is the refit schedule of warships, and management of sailors and billets. But the days of a separate navy are gone, and the mindset now is one navy.

“We are driving away from the navy being known as [separate entities] in Quebec, Halifax, Ottawa and Esquimalt, and are focusing on being one navy. The idea is to look at our processes and align them in a coherent way. I have the confidence we can deliver with our future fleet and it’s about delivering this together as one navy.”

His final message was about navy pride.

“Pride is what gets us through the tough times. I think there will be some tough times in the next few years and I realize it’s not just a job that we do – it’s nation building. In 2010, the naval centennial was a huge event, and we as senior leaders were forced to look at who we are, what we are and what we stand for. We all found ourselves standing in front of Canada and in the public eye. We saw our connection with Canada. Pride is at the heart of this and it is our beliefs that make us proud as Canadians and as a navy.”

-Shelley Lipke, Staff Writer

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