From the Commodore

LINK - April 2017 / May 31, 2017

By Cmdre Marta Mulkins, Commander Naval Reserve

The last six months have been amazing for the pace of change across the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) as a whole - and the Reserve in particular. Our transformation has accelerated and touches every level of the institution - from the high-level Establishment Review which will be completed in late spring 2017, our recruitment overhaul which has resulted in our reaching the highest percentage of our planned intake in years, right down to updating the image presented by our Naval Reserve Divisions (NRD) in their communities to better reflect our forward-looking role in the fleet and RCN of the future. While such change is sometimes difficult to communicate and manage in an organization which relies upon a lot of part-time service, you have risen magnificently to the challenge. Your embrace of new opportunities, your drive to innovate and to lead through change are the hallmarks of superb professionalism. Thank you.

Among the internal initiatives launched this past year, the Retention Study working group recently allowed me to have a peek at their findings...and they are intriguing. Shamelessly stealing their thunder, here are a few points to ponder: A third of all Naval Reserve (NAVRES) attrition occurs in years 0-2 - and almost two thirds before the 5 year mark. The ranks of Ordinary Seaman, Leading Seaman and Lieutenant (Navy) see the highest departure levels...but that said, many are component transfers. There also evidently are connections between aptitude, education and retention which may reinforce our recruitment processes. It also demands us to ensure that training be of the highest quality right from the start, to challenge and engage our talented recruits. Fortunately, our Naval Training System is working hard to continue to achieve exactly that, in an increasingly flexible fashion. The study also indicated that the desire to serve one's country consistently outranks pay and benefits as motivators for retention (though they are important as well). Incompatibility between civilian career, family requirements and reserve career demands remains the largest cause of attrition - but on the other hand, high levels of job satisfaction and pride in combat readiness levels are big factors in retention. Sounds about right.

The observations around job satisfaction were particularly thought provoking for me. The study does mention that the evolution to the targeted augmentation role presents the challenge of continuing to deliver the current level of skill and capability, and not risking a return to previous era where the Naval Reserve was not making the same institutional contribution that we are making today. Encouragingly, the results of the survey indicated most think the integration of Reservists across all surface ships is going very well - one assumes a key to job satisfaction - and we will continue to see this further enhanced in the coming years.

After two decades of delivering operational excellence to the Fleet in the Kingston-class, we are, and will remain, equal partners within the One Navy, due in part to the fact that we recruit, train and manage to the same standards as our Regular Force counterparts. As an institutional leader whose own career started in the pre-Kingston Class era sailing in what we then called 'Reg Force ships' my own conviction remains strong to ensure the structure is in place to set every sailor up for success, notwithstanding our slightly different (typically narrower) career streams in our respective occupations. We must always ensure that reservists are able to join and work with their One Navy colleagues confidently in every platform they sail in or in whatever job they do - our future success as an institution depends upon it.

Thinking of those early days, I recall one of my first acquaintances 'on the Coast' was our own Naval Reserve Chief - Chief Petty Officer 1st class (CPO1) Dave Arsenault. We have known each other almost as long as I have been in the Navy and so it has been a singular and special experience to have worked with him in our current roles. He has been the consummate professional throughout and in the last couple of years I have especially appreciated his good counsel, extraordinary institutional memory, dedication and yes...persistence...He is thoughtful, practical, effective and I believe has set a superb example for all aspiring institutional leaders. In the coming weeks he will be starting to help his very worthy successor, CPO1 Mike Giguère, to prepare for the challenges which lie ahead. Though we wait for confirmation on what prestigious role he might take up next, I am confident that CPO1 Arsenault's talents will not be lost but will continue to be put to excellent use within the CAF. Thank you Dave for your excellent service to the Naval Reserve and RCN!