RCN sailors get taste of army life while on Operation Unifier

Canadian Armed Forces members have been involved with building up the capacity of their Ukranian counterparts on Operation Unifier since January 2015.

Canadian Armed Forces members have been involved with building up the capacity of their Ukranian counterparts on Operation Unifier since January 2015.

Ryan Melanson, Trident Newspaper ~

A long deployment away from home is nothing unusual for Canadian sailors, and there are certain constants they look forward to, like the daily routines of life at sea, camaraderie with shipmates, and hot soup every morning.

However, for a group of Royal Canadian Navy members currently deployed to Operation Unifier Roto 6 in Ukraine, the experience has been a little different. The mission, which has been ongoing since 2015 and focuses on training and support to the Security Forces of Ukraine, is led by members of 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment.

Entering the army environment can be an adjustment for those in navy.

“One of the big differences is nobody knows what your rank is called,” said a Lieutenant (Navy) working in the Intelligence Section. For operational security reasons, military members can only be referred to by their rank and trade. “You’re just a little different from everybody else, and people might look at you a little strangely until a couple of months pass, people get to know you, and then you become part of the team.”

He added that his naval experience has also been beneficial on occasion, such as after a recent security incident in the Black Sea/Kerch Strait, an area he is familiar with from naval deployments.

“Having the navy background came in handy in that it enabled me to speak intelligently on the topic and other naval matters that might affect Ukraine.”

Another member, a Leading Seaman working as one of six Canadian Armed Forces linguists on the mission, said he’s enjoyed a deployment that allows for more fresh air and less time below the decks of a ship.

He added, however, he’s been a bit overwhelmed by the number of people he interacts with each week in his linguist role, and has trouble recalling names, as opposed to speaking with the same colleagues each day during an at-sea deployment.

“I find that part a bit strange. There are people on this deployment who I might not see for weeks at a time,” he said.

The most significant part of the deployment for the Leading Seaman, however, has been returning home country. His family moved to Canada from Ukraine in 2002, and he’s been lobbying to join Op Unifier as a linguist since Canada began supporting the mission.

“My job is to link people who can only speak English with the people from our host nation and facilitate the dialogue between the two on whatever topic is required,” he said. “I feel like I have a unique set of skills among CAF members, so I saw it as a chance to utilize that and contribute to the mission. It’s a bit weird being here in uniform, and the country has changed a lot since we left in 2002, but I’m honestly just happy to be useful to the CAF.”

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