Ottawa and readiness training


SLt Duy Nguyen & Lt(N) Ellie Aminaie
HMCS Ottawa ~

For the first time since its Halifax Class modernization, HMCS Ottawa and crew had the opportunity to operate in a multi-ship task group.

Along with HMCS Winnipeg, Ottawa participated in a U.S.-led exercise involving numerous American ships, a Chilean submarine, and multitudes of U.S.-based aircraft off the coast of Southern California.

Ottawa’s crew is working toward high readiness for their upcoming WestPloy 17 deployment; so, the ship’s company has undergone a month-long Intermediate Multi-Ship Readiness Training (IMSRT), also referred to as workups, in order to prepare the crew for the challenges of naval operations, damage control, and warfare.

The U.S.-led exercise, called SWATTEX, also served to improve the Royal Canadian Navy’s interoperability with American counterparts.

For many of the younger members of the crew, the workups program was a first taste of high tempo operations over an extended period at sea. Ottawa embarked a team from Sea Training Atlantic to train and mentor the crew, helping to establish core skills required at sea, and build team cohesion.

SLt Bryan Carr, a Phase VI Combat Systems Engineering Officer and recent graduate from initial training ashore, joined the crew days before sailing from Esquimalt, and was quickly exposed to an array of new naval operations and seamanship evolutions.

“There’s been a lot to learn since pretty much every evolution was practiced during IMSRT. It’s been a great opportunity to see the 57mm gun and Close-In Weapon System, both in action and taken apart for maintenance. For a while, we were doing a shoot every day,” he said.

Although he found many concepts at sea difficult to grasp at first, SLt Carr was able to gain greater comfort and confidence as he experienced numerous emergency scenarios.

Another young sailor who benefitted from Ottawa’s Force Generation program was Able Seaman Jean-Michel Derome, who is a Junior Weapons Engineer. In addition to the Sea Training mentorship he received in repairing equipment during battle damage scenarios, AB Derome’s experience with the Naval Boarding Party was the highlight of the sail for him.

“A secondary duty of mine is Naval Boarding Party. This duty has been a worthwhile experience, showing me the intricacies of dealing with a variety of different situations when searching a vessel of interest with questionable cargo.”

The ship’s program included practice boardings of a U.S. Coast Guard ship, HMCS Brandon, and the motor vessel Atlas, a contracted coastal freighter used to train boarding teams from around the world, including Navy SEAL teams.

The Naval Boarding Party was also employed in a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief scenario that was the final milestone for Ottawa’s readiness training.

Among a number of milestones achieved by Ottawa during the readiness training was the Ship Without Air Detachment (SWOAD) qualification that includes the ability to conduct operations with domestic and foreign helicopters without having an air detachment embarked.

Ottawa also used the opportunity to train members of the ship’s company who were not part of the Deck Department as a secondary SWOAD team, providing the ship greater flexibility to conduct multiple seamanship evolutions concurrently.

LS Christopher Henrion, a boatswain onboard, described his first hand view of the event as, “an amazing experience doing SWOAD ops with the American Coast Guard. It is an opportunity that doesn’t come around often.”

LS Henrion was an integral member of the SWOAD team who assisted with the safe landing of the Coast Guard helicopter on the flight deck and making sure that one of the ship’s team members was delivered to medical care ashore.

Overall, the ship’s company had a beneficial experience working with Winnipeg and the United States Navy and Air Force, while under the mentorship of Sea Training Atlantic staff on fighting the ship in multiple warfare scenarios all while working within a multi-national task group.

Notably, during the month-long program, Ottawa fired thousands of rounds of ammunition, dealt with 21 ship-wide damage control and warfare scenarios, treated 122 exercise casualties, and travelled a total distance of 6,200 nautical miles.

It was a very busy sailing program that undoubtedly prepared the ship’s company for a higher readiness level as it continues to force generate for the upcoming Westploy 17 deployment. The final result was the achievement of Normal Readiness 1 status and the confidence that Ottawa is ready for more complex problems and challenging environments.

Upon return to Esquimalt, Ottawa will have a busy program ahead, including operations team training for the Combat Department at the MATS facility in Halifax, NS, and mission workups in early 2017.

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