Two sailors aboard HMCS Winnipeg describe their experiences during Intermediate Multiship Readiness Training as a Bridge Watch Keeper under training.

SLt Nic Bell in HMCS Winnipeg.

SLt Nic Bell in HMCS Winnipeg.

An Unusual Alarm Clock

SLt Nic Bell
HMCS Winnipeg

Being awoken by the general alarm at 0400 coming through the PA is certainly an unusual alarm clock.

I hop out of my rack, lit by red light, in a space shared with five others, three of whom are casualty clearers and two rescue swimmers (including myself).

Everyone dresses as fast as possible while the ship rolls 15 degrees – makes dominos on a seesaw look steady compared to us.

We move as fast as possible to the upper decks to don a dry suit labeled “RESCUE” and hop into a little boat that will shortly be suspended two to three stories over the water. All this to recover our friend Oscar, a human-sized dummy who was thrown overboard for training. That’s my alarm clock some days.

Life during Intermediate Multiship Readiness Training (IMSRTs) is a constantly changing, chaotic event consisting of trying to stay ahead of the ship’s program. Being a Bridge Watch Keeper under training just adds to the chaos. Attending briefings, running serials from the bridge, and responding to emergencies, every day is a change from the last and tomorrow will be different.

A moment that stands out was being the Second Officer of the Watch on the bridge for the first landing of our helicopter. Bringing the ship to emergency flying stations, putting on action dress, and trying to find a flying course to safely land the helicopter while working with a helicopter for the first time was a nerve-racking, yet confidence-building evolution.

A sense of anxiety was felt through the bridge as we watched the flight deck through the CCTV system, with the sound of rotor blades chopping in the background while the aircraft landed. We waited anxiously to hear “Trapped on Deck” over the net. Every time a novel and stressful moment ends, you go back to thinking “Okay what’s next?”

Needless to say, the life of a Bridge Watch Keeper under training during an IMSRT program is definitely not routine.


SLt Luc Steele in HMCS Winnipeg.

SLt Luc Steele in HMCS Winnipeg.

Learning as a team

SLt Luc Steele
HMCS Winnipeg

Heading back to my mess after rescue stations feels like heading home. I’m exhausted, but these emergency drills are as fun as they are necessary, and they ensure our readiness for deployment. I might be weary, but the pain is worth the gain. Plus, I hear the mess might have cake for dessert tonight, so what’s a little soreness when there is chocolate frosting at the finish line?

This is my first posting to a frigate, and I am lucky to be learning with this crew. A good team is at the core of this experience. The welcome from the crew and their genuine desire to foster learning creates an ideal environment for training. With considerable patience, the crew has helped me adapt to life at sea. Learning on the frigate adds an important dimension to what we have learned in the classroom. It cements the theory that we have been taught while introducing us to the variability of real-world situations.

The most important “real world lesson” so far is the only consistency on a frigate is inconsistency.

Training each day varies from launching and recovering the helicopter, driving the ship, taking safety precautions for electromagnetic radiation hazards, all interspersed with emergency drills and weapon firings to keeps us on our toes.

This being my first posting on a frigate and my first exposure to many of these drills, the support of the crew is immensely impactful. Learning is not an individual effort in Winnipeg. The crew takes you in as one of their own and enthusiastically offers their experience and knowledge to help you continuously improve. Every little detail matters. Something as simple as how to effectively drain and store a fire hose to maximize the efficiency of rapid deployment contributes to the smooth operation of the vessel, and the crew is dedicated and eager to pass on this hard-won knowledge.

We work hard, but always as part of a team. Through exercises, mealtimes, and never quite enough moments of sleep, we are united in our common drive to work harder and be better so that we can be stronger for each other and for those at home. As part of this team, I am motivated to excitedly run towards new experiences and to conquer them.

Which is why, with the wind whipping past as the zodiac picks up speed, and with the silhouette of Winnipeg growing larger by the second, I look up and see the helicopter out on the flight deck and think to myself, “I can’t wait until I can get a ride in that.”


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