Welcoming a new leader

Maritime Forces Pacific’s (MARPAC) new commander, RAdm Gilles Couturier, endeared himself to hockey fans at CFB Esquimalt when he introduced himself during a change of command ceremony on A-jetty on July 14.

During his opening address, RAdm Couturier drew parallels between Canada’s national sport and its navy.

“The reason I use the analogy of hockey is because I believe in the concept of team sports where success is dependent on teamwork and team spirit,” he said. “On the ice, it’s the goal-scorer, the playmaker, the stay-at-home defenceman or the grinder, but within the navy it’s the officers, the non-commissioned members, the operators, the technicians and the civilians that ensure the success of the team.”

In his 32-year naval career, RAdm Couturier has applied the lessons learned in the hockey arena as a player, coach and referee to create success for himself and his teams in the navy.

Among his biggest achievements was being selected as the Combined Forces Maritime Component Commander (CFMCC) in 2014 for Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), the largest maritime exercise in the world. This was the first time a Canadian had taken on the role.

This isn’t RAdm Couturier’s first posting to the West Coast. He served on Pacific Fleet ships early in his career and later commanded Maritime Operations Group Four. Then in 2008, he served as the Maritime Component Commander for Operation Podium, the Canadian Armed Forces contribution to the overall security effort for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

“I am thrilled to be back on this coast,” he said.

Speaking about the issues currently facing today’s navy, RAdm Couturier emphasized the importance of stamping out sexual discrimination and harassment and said the navy will have to deal with this issue “as a team with the MARPAC leadership fully engaged.”

He said the Royal Canadian Navy’s code of conduct is currently being revised and will set new guidelines he expects everyone to follow.

As the formation welcomed RAdm Couturier, it bid farewell to outgoing Commander MARPAC, RAdm Bill Truelove.

In his speech, presiding officer VAdm Mark Norman, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, recalled the rough seas this coast faced during RAdm Truelove’s tenure including last year’s engine room fire in the former HMCS Protecteur and the collision between Protecteur and the former HMCS Algonquin in 2013. He commended RAdm Truelove for his strong leadership during these times.  He also remarked on the many achievements the formation realized under RAdm Truelove’s leadership.

“We just kept giving you more and more and you just kept delivering over and over again,” said VAdm Norman. “You embody what right looks like and you made it part of your core business to connect with your community both on and off base.”

As July 14 was also RAdm Truelove’s 54th birthday, VAdm Norman surprised him by leading the entire crowd in singing Happy Birthday, accompanied by the Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy.


Peter Mallett, Staff Writer

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