Twin sisters on parallel paths in the RCN

Lt(N) Stephenie Murray, left, and Lt(N) Andrea Murray, are twin sisters in the Royal Canadian Navy who are both currently Executive Officers in Kingston-class warships. Photo by Mona Ghiz, MARLANT PA

Lt(N) Stephenie Murray, left, and Lt(N) Andrea Murray, are twin sisters in the Royal Canadian Navy who are both currently Executive Officers in Kingston-class warships. Photo by Mona Ghiz, MARLANT PA

Ryan Melanson, Trident Newspaper ~

If you come to HMC Dockyard in Halifax looking for a naval officer named Lt(N) Murray, you need to be very specific. Even if you know she’s the Executive Officer of a Kingston-class ship, you’ll still need more details.

That’s because there are two Murrays.

Lt(N) Andrea Murray, Executive Officer of HMCS Kingston, and Lt(N) Stephanie Murray, Executive Officer of HMCS Glace Bay, are twin sisters, which is often news even to their dockyard colleagues. The two aren’t identical twins, but the similarities while in uniform are close enough to create some confusion.

“There’s a harbour pilot we’ve been working with for a decade who recently realized we weren’t the same person, so we had to let him know. That happens all the time. We also get mistaken for each other on a daily basis,” says Lt(N) Andrea Murray.

The two sisters have been members of the Royal Canadian Navy since 2005, and starting with Basic Training, which they completed together, their careers have progressed in lockstep with each other.

“We’ve actually done basically all our positions at the same time. We were Operations Officers together, we were Deck Officers, and now we’re both XOs,” says Lt(N) Andrea Murray.

Her sister added that growing up, their parents worked hard to ensure they led independent lives, enrolling the sisters in different classes at school or signing them up for different sports teams and activities.

“And now here we are doing the same job, in the same place, in the same uniform,” she jokes.

The Murrays come from a family with lots of military service history, and spent most of their childhood and high school years near 17 Wing Winnipeg. Like so many military children before them, they were adamantly against joining the Canadian Armed Forces as they grew up, but once their dad, a recruiter in the Royal Canadian Air Force, convinced them to give the Naval Reserve a try, things quickly changed.

“We ended up really enjoying it,” Lt(N) Stephanie Murray says.

“We made great friends right from the start at Basic, and then we started sailing and the navy kept taking us to new and exciting places, so we never left,” her sister adds.

So far, that list of places includes sailing to Bahrain, West Africa, Hawaii, up and down the Eastern Seaboard, Alaska, Canada’s North, and more. 

“The navy’s taken me to places I never even knew I wanted to go,” Lt(N) Andrea Murray says, recalling the serene beauty of the Arctic in particular.

“That’s been one of the most exciting aspects.”

The sisters have also both just transferred to the Regular Force after more than a decade as Naval Reservists, following the lead of many in the Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel community who’ve made the switch as part of the navy’s “Big Idea” initiative to expedite the transition of experienced Reserve sailors.

“After 10 years of loving the job, it seemed like the right time,” Lt(N) Andrea Murray says, mentioning the extra opportunities for Regular Force members and doors that could be opened as their careers continue.

The immediate next career step, at least for Lt(N) Andrea Murray, is a deployment to West Africa on Operation Projection, which will see Kingston and Summerside participate in the U.S.-led Obengame Express exercise while also visiting communities and training with the navies and Coast Guards of different countries in the region.

The sisters may be ­split up for three months, but with Lt(N) Stephenie Murray having completed a similar deployment in 2017, she had lots of tips and advice during the run-up to the ships’ departure on Jan. 26. It also helped to have a sister nearby during the hectic pre-deployment period, such as when crates of food arrived for Kingston at a moment when free hands were lacking.

“The next thing I know, Stephenie’s people were all loading things into our fridge, which was a lifesaver,” Lt(N) Andrea Murray says. “It’s been huge for us to have that person nearby that you can go to for some help or support.”

They’re not entirely opposed to the idea of eventually being posted to separate coasts or having their careers move in different directions, and say it’s more by chance than design their progression has been so closely aligned thus far. That being said, both agree having the sibling connection has enriched their first decade of service, whether it’s playing practical jokes on shipmates, using DWAN email to keep in touch while at sea, or just sharing the day-to-day challenges that come with being a young officer.

With all the support, however, also comes the regular squabbles of sibling rivalry.

“We can certainly drive each others nuts. I call her my best friend and my worst enemy,” Lt(N) Andrea Murray says with a laugh. “I can’t wait until I get Captain of a ship before she does.”

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