One Ship, Two Coasts: Bringing HMCS Max Bernays Home

HMCS Max Bernays Coxswain Change of Appointment Ceremony, July 7, in Halifax, N.S.

HMCS Max Bernays Coxswain Change of Appointment Ceremony, July 7, in Halifax, N.S.

Lt(N) Karakoy
HMCS Max Bernays UPAR

It’s a sweltering mid-summer day in the Halifax Harbour.

The crew of HMCS Max Bernays gathers on the ship’s flight deck, engaging in good-humoured banter following a morning filled with ship-wide Damage Control exercises. The gentle heat of the Friday afternoon’s sun only adds to the overall positivity on board.

Looking forward to their evening off, the ship’s company knows there is one last but essential task to attend to before the week’s end.

Since HMCS Max Bernays was always destined to be a West Coast ship, the ship’s company falls into formation on the flight deck-turned-parade square to recognize the first East-to-West Coast handover of a position in the Command Team.

The ship had spent the last year and a half under the care of an East Coast crew, with the West Coast personnel gradually arriving in the past months to start the transition of bringing the ship to its eventual home in Esquimalt Harbour. While the transition of certain positions from East to West Coast personnel has already begun, the handover of the role of Coxswain is the first to occur within the ship’s Command Team.

A ship’s Coxswain plays an incredibly vital role on board. They are charged with ensuring a ship’s company holds a high standard of deportment and discipline while representing the ship’s sailors within the Command Team.

The crew of HMCS Max Bernays.

The crew of HMCS Max Bernays.

Building the crew of HMCS Max Bernays after receiving the ship at the Halifax Naval Dockyard is a memory the outgoing Coxswain holds in the highest regard.

“We built a team, we traveled a road of shared experiences, built friendships and an Esprit de Corps,” said Chief Petty Officer First Class (CPO1) Tari Lightwood. “My only disappointment is not delivering MAX to its home in Esquimalt Harbour personally, but I am very excited for Mike to be the one to do the honours.”

Born in Berwick, N.S., to a military family, CPO1 Lightwood received her entire education in schools on military bases before obtaining her bachelor’s degree. CPO1 Lightwood has completed 26 years of service in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), which have brought many experiences ashore and at sea and in the Regular and Reserve Forces.

Having been posted to HMCS Max Bernays in December 2021, well before it was received by the RCN, CPO1 Lightwood saw the ship brought into service from the ground up.

“I have had the absolute privilege to be a part of what I consider to be one of the most important milestones in bringing a ship into service,” CPO1 Lightwood said. “The vessel that was delivered to us was just steele and parts. It was when we marched on board that the ship came to life and took its first breath. That’s when it became MAX.”

She recounts having seen the ship physically take shape at the Irving Halifax Shipyard as well as presiding over the Badging and Naming Ceremonies of HMCS Max Bernays among her most notable experiences during her time onboard.

Lieutenant (Navy) Martin Berthelot (left), East Coast Operations Officer HMCS Max Bernays, 
with Lieutenant (Navy) Sarah Thomas (right), West Coast Operations Officer HMCS Max Bernays.

Lieutenant (Navy) Martin Berthelot (left), East Coast Operations Officer HMCS Max Bernays, with Lieutenant (Navy) Sarah Thomas (right), West Coast Operations Officer HMCS Max Bernays.

As Coxswain, CPO1 Lightwood worked tirelessly to support her Command Team partners while establishing a culture of respect and trust throughout the Ship’s Company. She built a strong team before transferring the role to CPO1 Michael Umbach, HMCS Max Bernays’ first West Coast Coxswain.

Originally from a small community south of Calgary, Alta., CPO1 Umbach joined the RCN in 1992 as a Naval Electronics Technician. In the past 31 years, he gained remarkable professional and personal experiences, from spending 79 days straight at sea on HMCS Vancouver for Op Apollo ROTO 0 to his work at Sea Training Group (Pacific) mentoring both East and West Coast sailors. Before taking over the Coxswain role, CPO1 Umbach was the Senior Production, Operations and Waterfront Management Chief at Fleet Maintenance Facility (FMF) Cape Breton.

CPO1 Umbach is grateful for the many professional and dedicated individuals he worked with.

“It is the best job in the Navy, one that I am truly honoured to be entrusted with,” CPO1 Umbach said. “The Coxswain is there to support the Command Team and help the crew understand the ‘why’. They ensure the well-being of all members of the ship while setting the example of what right looks like”.

“I will work hard to be open, fair and honest with the crew to enable an environment where everyone feels valued and can contribute to the successful delivery of a new capability to the West Coast,” he said.

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