Commander Tessier to take charge of second Arctic patrol ship

Navy News / February 23, 2017

By Peter Mallett

A few days before Christmas break, Commander Michele Tessier was offered a major command coup.

In a meeting with Commodore Jeff Zwick, Commander Canadian Fleet Pacific, she was offered the captain’s chair aboard Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Margaret Brooke, the Royal Canadian Navy’s second Harry DeWolf-Class Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessel (AOPV).

“I was humbled to hear the news to be honest; it was a really emotional moment for me,” she says. “You’re lucky to get one command at sea, so to be selected for a second is quite an honour.”

Cdr Tessier commanded HMCS Nanaimo from 2010 to 2013, which she says was the highlight of her career.

HMCS Margaret Brooke is currently under construction at Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax. This brand-new class of ship honours Canadian naval heroes, with this particular ship paying tribute to Lieutenant-Commander Margaret Brooke, a Second World War nursing sister. This marked the first time an RCN vessel was named after a living Canadian woman. (LCdr Brooke subsequently passed away in 2016 at the age of 100.)

The rollout of the AOPVs is expected to start in 2018, and Cdr Tessier will begin her new job that summer to prepare for command.

Her appointment was determined by the Naval Succession Planning Board, a body made up of senior RCN leadership that determines operational command positions.

The graduate of Memorial University’s English literature program grew up in Grand Bank, NL. She is the granddaughter of a fishing trawler captain, and she says the salt water is in her blood.

Cdr Tessier joined the Naval Reserve in 1996 at HMCS Cabot in St. John’s, and completed basic officer training at the now closed Canadian Forces Officer Candidate School in Chilliwack, B.C. Her resumé is peppered with notable appointments including commanding officer of Naval Reserve Division HMCS Griffon in Thunder Bay, Ont., and Commander Coastal Forces Pacific, her current post.

Once deployed, the new AOPVs will help enforce Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic by providing armed sea-borne surveillance and response in Canada’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

“It’s starting from scratch with a new class of ship that is bigger than the Kingston Class and heavier than the Halifax Class frigates, which is exciting,” Cdr Tessier says.

The 103-metre diesel-electric propulsion vessels will have a complement of 65 personnel. Features of the vessel include helicopter capability; Polar Class 5+ ice breaker hull equipped with bow thrusters, enabling the ship to manoeuvre or berth without tug assistance and operate in medium first-year ice up to one metre thickness; a modern bridge navigation system; an automated remote-controlled 25mm gun; and a large vehicle bay capable of storing pickup trucks, ATVs and snowmobiles.

To enhance her understanding of conditions in Canada’s far north, Cdr Tessier, along with Cdr Corey Gleason, Commanding Officer of HMCS Harry DeWolf, will join the Canadian Coast Guard in the Arctic this summer, and again in 2018 for Arctic navigation and operations training. Some areas of focus will include Arctic-specific climate, currents and methods of operating a vessel in water obstructed by ice.

“While I have very basic ice navigation training and experience sailing in Alaskan waters, the RCN doesn’t have a lot of Arctic expertise,” says Cdr Tessier. “It’s a little daunting because I have so much to learn, not only about the Arctic component, but all the other pieces as well. I’m looking forward to getting on board with Cdr Gleason in 2018 to start my “Know-Your-Ship” book and become familiar with our newest class of ship.”

Article courtesy of Lookout Newspaper