Meet HMCS Saskatoon’s Executive Officer that was deployed on Operation Caribbe

Lieutenant (Navy) Blake Zazula

Lieutenant (Navy) Blake Zazula

Captain Sarah Harasymchuk
Operation Caribbe PAO

Lieutenant (Navy) Blake Zazula was recently deployed on Operation Caribbe as the Executive Officer on board HMCS Saskatoon. His role was to advise the Commanding Officer, oversee training on board, and ensure the morale and welfare of the crew.

Operation Caribbe is Canada’s participation in the U.S.-led enhanced counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean Sea and the eastern Pacific Ocean. Naval warships and aircraft deploy to the region on a rotational basis to support the American-led multinational mission to suppress trafficking in international waters and airspace.

Where was your favourite place to sail in your career?
Valparaiso, Chile. I had a chance to bring my road bike on our deployment and cycle around some of the cities that we visited. The historical downtown is beautiful, and the people were extremely welcoming, and I had awesome shipmates to tour around with me; it was a blast.

Would you rather be able to control the winds or the tides at sea?
Winds, no more tricky alongside. Wind can add a lot of complexity to an otherwise easy alongside.

What’s your favourite smell on ship?
It’s a tie between coffee and barbecue. We had a banyan (a barbecue on a ship), and I was drinking my coffee and helping the cooks with dinner, preparing burgers over a charcoal fire, that was a good smell day.

How did you get such an excellent crew on board?
We encourage all our leadership to actively get to know and care for their departments. Pandemics suck, and those gestures and words build understanding, which creates a positive culture. That really carried on after we started to sail again, it set the tone and made everyone feel welcome. To keep what we have going we need to talk. We encourage candor and honest feedback with positive intent on board, which keeps dialogue open and improves how we operate.

Why did you choose to join the navy in particular?
I had a mentor as a sailing instructor who was in the navy who sold me on the idea. I liked the ocean, I liked ships, I heard there would be lots of opportunity to travel so it seemed right up my alley. So far, so good; I would recommend it to a friend.

What do you miss the most when you’re at sea?
My wife and kids. My family brings me so much joy; that is by far the thing I miss most when I am at sea.

What’s the first thing you do after a long sail?
I am cooking dinner! I do the majority of the cooking when I am home and my wife, Liz, is very much happy to give up that responsibility.

What’s your favourite part about your job?
I like fixing problems.  Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (MCDVs) have small crews that need to create a ton of capability for mission success, which means the little things matter as they can become big problems later. The Coxswain and I do our best to identify the small things before they become big things.

Are the MCDVs safe to deploy on this operation?
Absolutely!  This operation works well for this platform. My biggest worries aren’t platform based but based on the health and wellbeing of the ship’s company; things like heat exhaustion and fatigue need to be managed all of the time. 

Why is this mission on Operation Caribbe important?
Every year partner nations intercept and seize millions of dollars of illicit substances. Disrupting trans-national drug organizations that have contributed to so much harm both at home and abroad is a critical part of the operation.


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