Officer commended for exemplary action

Lt(N) Rob Czekierda receives the Commander’s Commendation

Lt(N) Rob Czekierda receives the Commander’s Commendation from LGen Stuart Beare, the Commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command.

A former HMCS Vancouver officer was recently commended for actions that may have saved the lives of humanitarian aid workers off the coast of Libya during Operation Unified Protector.

In August 2011, Lt(N) Rob Czekierda was serving in Vancouver as Weapons Officer during the conflict in Libya. Vancouver was tasked with protecting the port of Misrata as well as assisting in the enforcement of the no-fly-zone around Libya.  

“There were a number of humanitarian aid flights that would come into the Misrata airport near the coast,” explains Lt(N) Czekierda. “We were in close proximity to the coast and in the airport approach corridor, and having aircraft in close quarters to a warship in a warzone can be uncomfortable. We had to make sure all of the planes were identified properly.”

Vancouver had identified a humanitarian aid flight coming in when sensors picked up a number of “technicals” (civilian vehicles with jury-rigged mounted weapons) on the beach facing the ocean.

“We went to action stations and took our steps, but our radar had created a number of  false tracks that the ops team was cleaning up,” says Lt(N) Czekierda. “With all of the movement and action the humanitarian aid flight had gotten lost in the clutter for a second.”

With unknown forces on the beach and a humanitarian flight at a risk of being targeted with weapons systems, Lt(N) Czekierda had to think fast.

“I decided that I had to be sure what we were looking at, so I went against procedure and decided not to activate one of our weapon systems,” he says. “I didn’t want to take any chances with a flight full of civilians and humanitarian aid in the air.”

Lt(N) Czekierda’s cool head would prove to pay off, as the technicals on the beach were proven friendly.

“We did some digging and realized they were just sitting on the beach, not preparing for an attack,” he says. “We found out through our sources they were rebel forces and not Libyan military.”

So with the threat disproven and the weapon systems under control, Lt(N) Czekierda and the crew of Vancouver were able to avoid inadvertently firing on a civilian aircraft.

Lt(N) Czekierda says he is certainly happy with his commendation, but he was really just doing his job.

“As the on-watch Operations Room Officer I had to be on top of things or people could have been hurt,” he says. “As members of the Royal Canadian Navy we’re there to make sure people are safe, and that’s all I was doing.”

-Shawn O’Hara, Staff Writer

Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.