Maritime Forces Pacific Leadership Command Change

MARPAC Change of Command

Left to right: Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee, Vice-Admiral Bob Auchterlonie, Vice-Admiral Craig Baines, and Rear-Admiral Christopher Robinson sign the Change of Command certificates for Maritime Forces Pacific at Duntze Head in HMC Dockyard on May 16. Photo by S1 Kendric C.W. Grasby, MARPAC Imaging Services.

Peter Mallett 
Staff Writer

The winds of change swept through Esquimalt’s dockyard last week as the reins of command for the Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) passed from one leader to the next.

Newly promoted Vice-Admiral (VAdm) Angus Topshee handed over command of MARPAC and Joint Task Force Pacific (JTF(P)) to Rear-Admiral (RAdm) Christopher Robinson at Duntze Head on May 16.

Holding the in-person event was a major change from the past two years. Last year’s MARPAC Change of Command Ceremony, which saw RAdm Topshee replace VAdm Bob Auchterlonie, was held virtually due to health and safety regulations surrounding COVID-19. This year’s event saw the return of the traditional naval pageantry, usually reserved for such ceremonies.

VAdm Topshee saluted HMCS Brandon and three Patrol Craft Training Vessels during the ceremonial sail past, as well as a fly-past from a CH-148 Cyclone helicopter.

Florence Dick and Christine Sam from the Songhees Nation conducted a First Nations blessing, and the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, the Honourable Janet Austin attended the event.

Saying Goodbye

After a little more than one year in command of MARPAC, Vice-Admiral (VAdm) Topshee moves on to Ottawa to his new job as Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy.

He, along with other speakers, noted many challenges the formation has dealt with over the past year, including a global pandemic and the ongoing climate change. More locally, MARPAC dealt with environmental disasters such as forest fires, floods, and personnel shortages. Despite all the pressing issues, VAdm Topshee said the fleet and the formation did well in challenging times.

Before signing the Change of Command documents and hauling down his pennant, VAdm Topshee sent a heart-felt thank you to military personnel and civilian employees for their diligence over the past year.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to command this great formation,” he said. “Thank you for all the hard work and outstanding support over these past 367 days.”

He then turned to VAdm Craig Baines, outgoing Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy.

“I stand relieved. NAVCOMs [Naval Communicators], haul down my flag.”

VAdm Topshee joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1990. He has held several other prominent positions throughout his career, including Director of Afghanistan National Police Training Operations in 2010, Commander of Canadian Forces Base Halifax (2012-2015), and Deputy Director of the Strategy, Policy and Plans Directorate North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). He assumed command of Canadian Fleet Pacific in 2018, and in May 2021 assumed command of Maritime Forces Pacific and Joint Task Force Pacific.

VAdm Topshee will replace VAdm Craig Baines, who will then retire.

A New Commander

Rear-Admiral (RAdm) Christopher Robinson’s new role as head of MARPAC comes with great responsibility, noted Vice-Admiral (VAdm) Craig Baines, who presided over the ceremony.

“It should be highlighted that this formation is one of the most unique and challenging formations in the Canadian Armed Forces and it is a lot to put on one’s plate,” VAdm Baines said.

He noted that, aside from his leadership role for MARPAC and JTF(P), RAdm Robinson will also oversee the Canadian Submarine Force, Naval Reserves, search and rescue (SAR) operations for the West Coast, as well as the naval training system.

VAdm Auchterlonie, who has assumed leadership of the Canadian Joint Operations Command after leading MARPAC, also addressed the gathering. He noted RAdm Robinson as someone with “phenomenal” qualities and a wealth of command experience.

“The Royal Canadian Navy is going to be well served by his passion and leadership at a critical time, and I couldn’t be more pleased,” VAdm Auchterlonie said. 

RAdm Robinson began his military career in the Canadian Army Reserves as a Combat Engineer with the 3rd Field Engineer Regiment in Montréal. He subsequently joined the Royal Canadian Navy and underwent Naval Warfare Officer training aboard patrol craft, mine-sweepers, and destroyers before volunteering for the silent service of submarines. In 2017, he was appointed Commander Canadian Submarine Force and Commander 4th Maritime Operations Group, and was also appointed Commander Canadian Fleet Atlantic between 2021 and 2022.

As winds began to diminish at Duntze Head, RAdm Christopher Robinson took to the podium for the final address of the day.

“It’s an immense privilege for me to follow in the footsteps of such great leaders and have the opportunity to enable the success of the west coast team. We all have much work to do and I am looking forward to building on the work done by VAdm Topshee, by engaging with all the members of the formation to continue to make MARPAC a respectful and great place to work.”

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