Specialty qualification means promotion, pay hike


Peter Mallett
Staff Writer

On HMCS Winnipeg’s flight deck on Monday Aug. 16, dressed in their Salt and Peppers (N3B), three Sailor First Class were promoted to Acting Master Sailor (MS) by Commodore David Mazur, Commander Canadian Fleet Pacific.

While it might seem an ordinary promotion, it was anything but that.

S1 Venkarlo Cornes and S1 Nicholas Sanders received the promotion after qualifying as Shipbourne Air Controllers (SAC). S1 Shelby Andrews, also a SAC, was promoted to Acting Lacking MS after successful completion of her RQMS course.

MS Cornes and MS Sanders are heading off on a six-month deployment with Winnipeg and its embarked Cyclone helicopter this week. MS Andrews currently attends Naval Fleet School Pacific.

On Aug. 16, S1 Nelson Holland, from HMCS Vancouver, will be promoted on board his ship. Qualified Shipbourne Air Controller sailors of Maritime Forces Atlantic are also being promoted.

The promotions are a reward in a new incentive program by the Royal Canadian Navy to generate interest in air control when posted to SAC billets on HMC ships.

Shipbourne Air Controllers are responsible for the tactical air control of helicopters and fixed wing maritime aircraft, as well as international aircraft, excluding fighter jets. Their job and title is a NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) qualification granted to Combat Operators from the naval trades of Naval Combat Information Officer, Naval Electronics Sensor Operator, and Sonar Operator that complete the voluntary course.

The fast-track promotion and substantial pay hike are sanctioned by the navy to address the shortfall of Shipbourne Air Controllers on warships. The goal is to entice other Combat Operators to follow suit and take the additional training.

Combat Operators can request the course once they attain the S1 rank, and have the recommendation from their Commanding Officer and career manager, says CPO2 Warren Beattie, Chief NCIOP with Sea Training Pacific and acting Fleet SAAC. He is a qualified SAC who joined the navy at an entry level position in 2005 and achieved his SAC qualification four years later.

He says the promotion and pay hike are a reward to these sailors for doing additional stressful and highly skilled work.

“It is an effort to bolster the low numbers on board our ships with the intent to make the SAC billets more attractive to our Combat Operators in that they will be promoted ahead of their peers to the rank of Acting Master Sailor,” he says.

The three month coursing is very intensive, he adds. The job itself is similar to an air traffic controller, but SACs have the added responsibility and pressure of providing tactical or radar control when pilots and their air crews are not capable of detecting threats.

The promotion to the MS rank comes with an estimated $3,000 a year increase.


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