Sailor speak: CPO1 Alena Mondelli

CPO1 Alena Mondelli is seen at sea during an Operation Reassurance deployment with HMCS  Toronto in 2019. Photo by MCpl Manuela Berger, FIS

CPO1 Alena Mondelli is seen at sea during an Operation Reassurance deployment with HMCS Toronto in 2019. Photo by MCpl Manuela Berger, FIS

Current role: Unit CPO Personnel Coordination Center (Atlantic)
Years of Service:


What was the best thing that happened in your life over this past year (2019)?

The greatest experience up to this point in my career has been my appointment as Coxswain of a Canadian Patrol Frigate. I was a member of HMCS Toronto from July 2018 until August 2019. In that year, we deployed on Operation Reassurance Roto 10.

Was there an unexpected joy this past year?

During Op Reassurance Roto 10, I co-presented with Cmdre Josée Kurtz at the Ukraine Naval Academy in Odessa, Ukraine, on diversity and gender integration within the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

As a Senior Officer and Senior Non-Commissioned Officer, we spoke as a “leadership team” about our experiences not only as RCN leaders, but how gender integration has assisted in transforming and leading the way to an inclusive and diverse CAF and RCN. It was an incredible honour to show the progress of the CAF as the two most senior (Officer and NCM Corp) deployed women within the RCN at the time. We were making change – globally – just by being who we were.

What was your biggest change in the last year?

My biggest change this year was my appointment to a key position. This was not because of the differences in jobs between a ship’s Coxswain and the Personnel Coordination Center Atlantic Unit Chief Petty Officer, but because of what it signified.

Never again will I be posted to a ship as a member of the ship’s company. This was something that struck me quite heavily as I left Toronto, as our identity of being a sailor is that of being on the ship, something I have done ever since I was an Ordinary Seaman. It was a big change to acknowledge and accept.

What is the most enjoyable part of your work?

Talking to people, listening to people, watching their achievements, mentoring and guiding them through their challenges, observing their growth, and celebrating it all with them in whichever way possible.

What is the most challenging part of your work?

The most challenging part of my work is also the people. As a CPO1, I lead and manage the human system, which is rewarding and difficult at the same time. The key is to find the balance between the needs of the individual and the needs of the institution. It’s challenging, but it’s necessary.

How would you describe the availability of opportunities for women in the Royal Canadian Navy?

The RCN is an equal opportunity employer. There is nothing a woman can’t do if she wants to do it.

Also, as we evolve to meet the needs of everyone, women have more control on what matters to them, such as being in a safe environment, opportunities for motherhood when it suits them – and whatever motherhood/parenthood may look like, child care, education, advancement, challenges, seeing new places, working with amazing people and different nations. The opportunities are there for those that take up the challenge and want to be challenged.

What advice would you give new female recruits?

Just be yourself – don’t change who you are – and do your best. Seek out a role model or mentor, even at such a new time in your career, this person will have invaluable advice that will help you. And finally, because I know it would be very overwhelming at first, I would tell them to treat people the way they want to be treated: with respect, dignity, and equity. It shows people they are valued.

What would you like Canadians to know about the RCN in 2020?

I would like Canadians to know the RCN is “their” navy and that we strive to meet their expectations in being a professional, adaptable, dependable, diverse, ethical, and excellent employer of choice. Sailors are very proud of what they do and accomplish, and the more we get that message out to Canadians, the more Canadians will understand the role of what their navy does for them, overall global security, and Canadian sovereignty.

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