HMCS Regina welcomes new Commanding Officer

Commander Coates

On June 30, HMCS Regina held a Change of Command ceremony, which saw Commander Meghan Coates take over as Commanding Officer of HMCS Regina. This ceremony was presided over by Commodore Dave Mazur, Commander Canadian Fleet Pacific.

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer

HMCS Regina has a new captain.

Commander (Cdr) Meghan Coates was appointed Commanding Officer (CO), HMCS Regina, in a Change of Command ceremony at the ship’s office in Dockyard at CFB Esquimalt on June 30.

“I am very excited and grateful to be appointed CO of HMCS Regina,” Cdr Coates said.

As a woman, Cdr Coates’ appointment follows the milestone appointment of Cdr Annick Fortin as Commanding Officer of HMCS Winnipeg in March 2022, which is Cdr Fortin’s second appointment as a female CO of a Halifax-class ship on the West Coast, following taking command of HMCS Regina (June 2021 – Mar. 2022).

The importance and gravity of being the second female CO of a frigate was not lost on Cdr Coates.

“I am extremely grateful to all the NWO (Naval Warfare Officer) females who have been COs on any of our ships, as they have helped break the glass ceiling and demonstrate women are more than capable of these demanding and responsible positions,” she said.

Cdr Coates said she is not one to keep track of women in essential posts in the RCN because there are numerous posts, but is glad to see the list of female commanders growing.

“It is extremely important for other women to have role models to look up to and it is wonderful to see my peers and friends in command roles, whether they are in positions at sea or ashore,” she said.

A sailor’s life

Originally from St. Stephen, N.B., Cdr Coates’ path to commanding Regina was 23 years in the making.

Cdr Coates decided on an RCN career path as a Naval Warfare Officer (NWO) before graduating high school in 1999. At the time, she thought the navy would be a great way to maintain her active lifestyle while also allowing her to sail the world.

She says navy life has more than delivered on its promise of adventure.

In 2005, she conducted an Arctic Sovereignty patrol with HMCS Fredericton. The following year on board Fredericton, she acted as a Bridge Watch keeper in a joint operations mission with the RCMP off the coast of Africa.

In 2008, she circumnavigated the world aboard HMCS Calgary as an Above Water Warfare Officer.

From July 2020 to Aug. 2021, she served as Executive Officer of Calgary. Her ship conducted the largest heroin seizure in Combined Maritime Forces history. The big bust happened while the vessel was deployed to the Arabian Sea as part of Op Artemis, Canada’s effort to stop terrorism and make Middle Eastern waters more secure.

Cdr Coates was promoted to her current rank in Nov. 2020.

She is married to Captain (Navy) Matthew Coates, Commanding Officer of the Naval Personnel Training Group. The couple has two boys, Nathaniel, 11, and Jackson, 8.

The road ahead

As Regina goes through an extended work period, Cdr Coates is determined to get the ship operational as soon as the refit is complete. The ship is expected to return to Dockyard this coming winter.

Some members of the ship’s company not currently on summer leave will be attached to other units. Those in the shore office will prepare for qualification training or be sent to other ships to help with tasks at hand. She and her staff also conduct damage control plotting and fire (preparedness) tours.

“We have been getting great support from other ships who will provide a platform in the fall for our duty watch personnel, so they can start getting back into the best practices on ships procedures again,” she said.

She says raising the morale of each ship member is also one of her big priorities as Captain. The effort to boost morale in between training and sailing opportunities includes monthly professional development days and weekly events such as nature hikes, yoga, and physical training classes. It is not always easy, but Cdr Coates said she has her methods of success.

“The best way to keep morale high is to talk to sailors and see what is on their minds, and to plan social activities like hikes, walks, and BBQs, whether they are ship-wide or in a department,” she said.

The ship’s company is looking forward to visit their namesake city in Saskatchewan in September.

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