HMCS Nanaimo’s Commander takes on Operation Caribbe

Commander Jason Bergen, Commanding Officer of HMCS Nanaimo. Photo by Patrick Fisher.

Commander Jason Bergen, Commanding Officer of HMCS Nanaimo. Photo by Patrick Fisher.

Captain Lisa Evong, HMCS Nanaimo PAO ~

For three months, Commander Jason Bergen has been a long way from his hometown of Saskatoon, with the icy South Saskatchewan River bisecting the city, and a blanket of snow draped over the cityscape.

Up until a week ago, he was 5,000 kilometres away in the Caribbean Sea and Eastern Pacific Ocean, seated in the captain’s chair on board HMCS Nanaimo.

Accompanied by sister warship HMCS Whitehorse, the two Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels were deployed on Operation Caribbe, Canada’s contribution to a U.S.-led, multi-agency effort to monitor, detect, and deter illicit trafficking in the region.

In addition to leading his ship, Cdr Bergen was also Maritime Task Force Commander for the operation. While both ships were called back early because of the COVID-19 outbreak, he and his crew were still able to aid the embarked U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement team in seizing 1,104 kilograms of cocaine from a Panga, preventing approximately $42M USD worth of illicit drugs from entering communities.

He attributes mission success to his skilled, dependable crew. As their leader, he uses mentoring and coaching techniques directly attributed to Ross Wilson, his baseball coach at Walter Murray Collegiate Institute two decades ago.

Coach Wilson taught his team that sportsmanship and being a “class-act” was not tied to a skill level or socio-economic background, but to a person’s behaviour when things got tough – when it mattered most, says Cdr Bergen.

“He was adamant that everyone on the team had a role to play, regardless of points scored.”

Just like a team, every member of a ship’s company has a role to play, from the Commanding Officer all the way down to the most junior member. Leadership can be displayed in the form of an act or even a good idea that contributes to the team, he says.

The team can endure and overcome the toughest situations if they have the right attitude and mutual respect. This can be something as simple as a contagious positive attitude from a junior member, and that can make all the difference, he adds.

The two ships are now sailing the final kilometres to their homeport of CFB Esquimalt.

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