Sailor profile: S2 Samantha-Lee Epstein

S2 Samantha-Lee Epstein

S2 Samantha-Lee Epstein

Lt(N) C.E. Grant

Before joining HMCS Moncton for Operation Caribbe, boatswain Sailor Second Class (S2) Samantha-Lee Epstein had only one day at sea gained from a day sail aboard HMCS Oriole.

She volunteered to sail in Moncton and headed south for the Caribbean in January to participate in U.S.-led enhanced counter-narcotics operations. It was her first time in a Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel.

The Naval Reservist dove feet-first into Mission-Specific Readiness Training, and while this alone posed a significant challenge for the junior sailor, the story leading up to that moment speaks volumes about her perseverance and character.

In August 2020, her mother passed away suddenly of a heart attack. In the wake of her loss, S2 Epstein travelled to Toronto to be with her father and spent a month tending to family matters, which was made all the more difficult due to COVID-19 restrictions and isolation requirements.

“Coming back from Toronto and having to quarantine alone was difficult, but getting back to work with the support of my crewmates on Oriole was a tremendous help.”

It was not long after her return that she was offered to join a new ship going on deployment.

“Having the opportunity to come on Op Caribbe with HMCS Moncton felt like something I needed – a change of pace, different scenery, and a new challenge to keep me going. But it was also terrifying and challenging. I was extremely anxious before going on this sail that I wouldn’t be mentally capable of doing this yet. Also, doing something completely different from anything I had done before left me unsure of what to expect.”

She overcame her pre-deployment uncertainty through a process leading up to the deployment.

“My therapist, social worker, and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) medical team contacted me regularly over the holiday period to ensure I was mentally ready to go on deployment. There was a lot more support from the CAF for my mental health than I expected – having the doctor call me the day after Christmas and the routine follow-ups from the team really helped reassure me that I was in good hands and that I was ready to go on deployment.”

While getting on board Moncton represented a significant milestone, S2 Epstein still had challenges ahead. The first week of Moncton’s deployment program included a week of Mission-Specific Readiness Training with Patrol Vessel Sea Training (Atlantic) on board.

“For the first few days it felt like I didn’t have a chance to relax or calm down, but by the end of that week I realized how much support I had, both from the crew and Sea Training staff. One thing I keep telling my father is that I’m blown away by the amount of support I have on this ship. I’ve never met people who give me this much support. They care so much about me and I care so much about them; it’s a little family. I truly believe the people in Moncton and on this deployment have helped me with the grieving process over the loss of my mother.”

As a Dalhousie University alumna with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology, S2 Epstein says one of the most interesting aspects of sailing in the Caribbean was all the marine mammals and birdlife she observed.

Just before arriving back in Halifax on March 9, S2 Epstein was asked what she was most looking forward to upon returning home. Reuniting with Jack, her pet Boxer-Pit Bull, she said.


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