Navy impresses young engineer, so she joins the ranks


Lt(N) Haley van Poorten in HMCS Vancouver’s engine room.

Katelyn Moores, MARPAC PA ~

“This is awesome!” That was Lieutenant(Navy) Haley van Poorten’s reaction the first time she went on board a Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) frigate when it was alongside Vancouver in 2011.

She was taken on a tour of HMCS Winnipeg by a friend, a Maritime Surface and Sub-Surface Officer, who wanted to show her the ship after telling her for years she should join the navy.

After working for six years as a structural engineer in Victoria and Vancouver, the Ontario native was ready for a change. She decided to join the RCN three-and-a-half years ago.

“With my last job, every year I would  think about moving to a different company until I realized it wasn’t the company’s fault, I just wasn’t enjoying what I was doing,” says Lt(N) van Poorten, now an Assistant Marine Systems Engineering Officer. “I don’t think that at all now. Every day I come to work with a smile, just happy to be here, and that’s what was missing before.”

She is currently posted to HMCS Vancouver, completing a year-long training billet to become a Marine Systems Engineering Officer.

The Marine Systems Engineering department is responsible for the readiness, operation and maintenance of all the ship’s systems not involved in combat or reconnaissance. These include propulsion systems, power generation and distribution, ship and machinery control systems, ship stability, and damage control.

“Basically, we are responsible for everything that allows the ship to become a home, and that allows it to move through the water,” explains Lt(N) van Poorten.

She had a wealth of useful knowledge with a Master of Engineering in Structural Engineering, but lacked the in-depth understanding of specific marine systems that her new position required. To gain this knowledge she completed an intensive two-year training program at the Canadian Forces Naval Engineering School in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a one-year technical training phase onboard HMCS Calgary.

It’s an interesting time to be on board a Halifax-class frigate. They were commissioned between 1992 and 1996, and are currently undergoing a planned mid-life modernization that includes a new command and control system, new radar capability, a new electronic warfare system and upgraded communications and missiles. In the Pacific Fleet, HMC Ships Calgary, Vancouver and Winnipeg have all completed their modernizations and are currently conducting operations.

Lt(N) van Poorten and the rest of her department now work with a user-friendly point-and-click approach that enhances the interface for remote control over most of the ship’s systems they maintain.
It’s not just the work, but also the people that makes her job rewarding. Although life on ship is not always easy – bad sea states have been known to keep her away from meal times – the camaraderie that comes with ship life has outweighed the bouts of seasickness.

“You’d think being stuck in a steel tube for weeks on end with the same people would be bad, but my department is so much fun,” she says.

Although her career change required rigorous training and an initial pay cut, Lt(N) van Poorten has no regrets about her decision to join the navy. After leaving a career that no longer challenged her, she has found a job that is both dynamic and interesting.

In early February, Vancouver deployed from its home port of Esquimalt to participate in operations with allies in South America. This summer, the ship will join a number of other navies in the waters off Hawaii for Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), the world’s largest international maritime exercise. The ship will then continue conducting exercises and operations in the Pacific Ocean until late this year.

All these deployments mean a lot of sea time for the crew, something Lt(N) van Poorten is not complaining about.

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