The Navy takes boats on the road as part of the NST roadshow

Members of the Naval Security Team train with Defender naval security boats on Okanagan Lake near Summerland, British Columbia on 26 July 2023.
Photo: Sergeant Malcolm Byers, MARPAC Imaging Services

RCN Public Affairs

“The crowds were blown away,” said Lieutenant (Lt(N)) Robert Newton, Commanding Officer of the Naval Security Team (NST), of his time on the outreach tour.

From July 25 to Aug. 15, the NST was under B.C.’s spotlight. The small team of just 17 core positions, responsible for harbour defence and protecting Canadian waterways, was showcased across the B.C. Interior. The roadshow made appearances in cities including Vernon, Kelowna, and Kamloops.

“Not only do we have a Navy, we have these really flashy, cool police boats and drones. A lot of them were thrilled to have that brought to their community,” he said.

Transporting a glimpse of Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) capabilities to communities that aren’t accustomed to a naval presence was a highlight for Lt(N) Newton.

Despite the lack of naval presence in the region, the team was met with enthusiasm as they showed off their capabilities and promoted the Naval Experience Program (NEP).

Designed to introduce candidates to life in the RCN through basic military training and four weeks of naval activity, NEP participants earn a salary while they spend a year working as a sailor and decide if a career with the Navy is the right fit for them.

For Lt(N) Newton, the opportunity is too valuable to miss in B.C.

“We had thousands and thousands of people come to our booth. There were teenagers to middle-aged people who showed a lot of interest,” he recalled.

Appreciating young people’s challenges with the current job market, Lt(N) Newton was encouraged by the turnout and pleased to share the NEP’s variety of career opportunities.

“It was different when I was growing up,” he explained. “Today’s demographic is a lot more educated. Many young people already have degrees and don’t want to commit 10 years of their life to the Navy. The fact that this is a year-long program, and they could treat it like a gap year really hit home with them,” Lt(N) Newton said.

The roadshow not only served as a chance to show off the NST’s extensive capabilities and promote the NEP, but also allowed members to train in new conditions, away from their bases in the open waters of Esquimalt, B.C. and Halifax, N.S.

As a hub for tourism during the summer months, paddleboarders, wakeboarders, jet-skiers and boaters all created water traffic and new challenges for operators to navigate. This allowed the sailors to hone their skills and work in a different environment from the open seas.

“It’s also 34 degrees in the Okanagan. That’s very difficult on the operators. They’re not used to sweating this much,” Lt(N) Newton said. “This tested their fortitude, their adaptability to be able to work in an uncomfortable environment while maintaining their skill set and their focus.”

The water wasn’t the only place Lt(N) Newton saw his team shine. He was also impressed to see the sailors come out of their shells and engage directly with the community to promote their careers.

“The big thing I took away from my team was watching them grow. They’re excited to be operators,” Lt(N) Newton said. “I had ten different voices speak to the media. To see them go from avoiding the camera to speaking to the media was pretty exciting to watch.”

Lt(N) Newton says the team was welcomed warmly by the cities and invited to make a return next summer.

“The response from the cities and the mayors was ‘we can’t wait until you come back. This is fantastic’,” he said.


Members of the Naval Security Team train with Defender naval security boats on Okanagan Lake near Kelowna, British Columbia on 25 July 2023.
Photo: Sergeant Malcolm Byers, MARPAC Imaging Services

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