Royal Canadian Navy Update of April 23 - Ongoing COVID-19 Response

COVID-19 / April 23, 2020

Shipmates and Families,

This, my fourth “CRCN Update re our Ongoing Covid-19 Response,” needs to obviously begin first with an acknowledgment that the entire Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) extended family mourns with the families, friends and communities impacted so terribly by the senseless tragedy that unfolded in Nova Scotia this past weekend. While words cannot ease the pain, it is our hope that the knowledge that they are in our thoughts and prayers will provide some respite to Bluenosers everywhere in these particularly difficult, surreal days. We are terribly saddened by the losses, some of which impact personally upon some within our ranks. On behalf of the entire naval family, I extend deepest condolences to the loved ones and communities of those taken from us so prematurely. We will remember them for the goodness they brought to the world and not for the hatred that took them from us.    

This tragedy notwithstanding, I hope that this latest note finds you and yours remaining otherwise healthy and safe as our pandemic response continues unabated. Thank you for sharing by note and/or social media your various heartening stories of your individual successes in safekeeping the health – both physical and mental – of you, your loved ones, and/or your shipmates! From online workouts and virtual fitness challenges, to individual sailors posting about what they are doing to stay fit; from sequestered crews, to Military Family Resource Centres ensuring that sailors’ families continue to get the support that they need; from ship’s at-sea to naval reservists signing-up for guaranteed employment via immediate Class C service in domestic response companies; from parents sharing home-schooling tips to kids sharing secrets about how IT works; from coping strategies to mindless distractions; and throughout our culture of checking on one another, now virtually, shining through – I can’t thank you enough for all that you are doing and how you’re doing it together while respecting isolations, physical distancing and the other common pandemic response best practices! Although our battle is not yet won, together as sailors, families and veterans, we appear to be continuing to successfully flatten the curve while encouraging and carrying one another! Keep it up!

Meanwhile, as you’re aware, naval forces currently available for Op LASER (pandemic response) and Op LENTUS (domestic emergency) response are currently approximately 2,300 in number. These sailors are deployed in five COVID-free warships (three frigates and two maritime coastal defence vessels), two domestic response companies, two small boat units, two teams of clearance divers, five general duty companies of Naval Reservists, and teams of local response forces – all standing-by to respond as soon as the call comes.

On the Atlantic Coast, HMC Ships Ville de Québec and Moncton proceeded to sea after a successful 14-day pre-op sequestration period in Halifax which included a donair night courtesy of RCN friends at Vets Canada and King of Donair (Halifax) – to whom we extend our great thanks for this contribution to our coastal force’s morale! Once Ville de Québec and Moncton relieved them at sea, Glace Bay and Shawinigan were finally able to come alongside and to reunite with their families (in self-isolation) for the first time since returning from Op PROJECTION (Africa) employment.

Likewise, on the Pacific Coast, Regina, Calgary, Whitehorse and Brandon remain at sea, ready and responsive for LASER/LENTUS employments while conducting a multi-week Task Group Exercise which, having already delivered Calgary to high-readiness status, is now resulting in Regina being commensurately worked-up. Nanaimo went home last Friday (April 17) for a week-long rest period. On April 24 it is scheduled to put to sea again, and begin a two-week rotation schedule with the other two maritime coastal defence vessels on the coast (Brandon and Whitehorse). This rotation will enable us to sustain one ship that is ready for duty at sea and confirmed COVID-19 free, while a second ship rotates alongside for rest and maintenance, and a third is underway at sea, preparing for COVID-free status.

All the while, you need recall, Fredericton’s Op REASSURANCE deployment continues unabated. Continuing to do yeoman’s work in delivering our current maritime contribution to NATO despite the pandemic environment which has essentially curtailed their deployment port-visit programme (affording opportunity for rest and logistics in isolation visits only), a COVID-free Freddie recently departed the Black Sea and returned to Mediterranean employment with NATO’s Standing NATO Maritime Group Two. Of course, our pandemic preoccupations have naturally bumped any national or even significant regional coverage of Freddie’s great work. For this reason, we seek every opportunity to salute and thank the Freddie crew and families publicly for their resiliency in these unprecedented times. Although sailors and families routinely manage the sacrifices that deployment separations entail, the Freddie crew and families’ strength in these difficult times is inspiring!

Finally, it is equally noteworthy that approximately 10-15% of the naval Defence Team are working ashore – on-base, in-dockyard, and at-HQ – to sustain and enable these deployers – while the remainder of our team are working from home to preserve the force, maintain core business functions and ensure the generation of the next domestic (LASER/LENTUS) and expeditionary (REASSURANCE, etc.) deployers. Key amongst this cohort are our public affairs teams whose tireless work is as appreciated by me as it is by you! Additionally, on a non-interference-basis with the priority afforded ongoing domestic and expeditionary operations sustainment, key corporate and institutional work – including non-industrial shipbuilding activities such as the Canadian Surface Combatant preliminary design effort – that can be done remotely continues to be progressed. Obviously, key amongst this corporate and institutional work underway across not just RCN lines but also pan-Canadian Armed Forces (CAF)/Department of National Defence (led by Chief of Military Personnel) is an enormous, proactive effort to reduce and mitigate the uncertainties, stressors and resulting anxieties that CAF members and their families are experiencing with respect to impacts of our pandemic response on career and life plans – specifically with respect to Active Posting Season 2020 posting/moves, career coursing, promotions and a myriad of other important administrative aspects of service life. And, importantly, also being worked are the vital planning efforts required to generate a tailored Business Resumption Plan [the antithesis to the currently enacted Business Continuity Plan] and to enable the RESTART of attraction and recruiting as well as both the pan-CAF and Service training systems.

There is indeed much underway in these unprecedented times – and not just ships!       

Shipmates & Families, stay the course: stay healthy, stay safe, stay fit, stay home and stay ready!


Stay Salty!

Vice-Admiral Art McDonald
Commander Royal Canadian Navy

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