From Africa to the Arctic: Tunisian naval officer sails with the RCN on Op NANOOK

Navy News / September 4, 2018

By Lieutenant (Navy) Linda Coleman

Sub-Lieutenant Ala Majdoub, a naval officer from the Tunisian Navy, landed at the Halifax airport on August 5, 2018 to begin the adventure of a lifetime.

He was about to spend five weeks sailing in Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Charlottetown on Operation NANOOK, Canada’s largest military operation in the North. He’s also the first member of his navy to sail with the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and to cross the Arctic Circle.

SLt Majdoub is part of Operation REGULUS, a program that facilitates exchanges between the RCN and partner navies from around the world with the goal of providing at-sea experience, unique training opportunities, and relationship building. Since its inception in 2010, Canada has engaged with over 10 countries through this program, including Australia, Chile, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Peru, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It’s now been extended to Tunisia, and SLt Majdoub is the first member of his navy to partake.

A deck and naval system engineering officer back in Tunisia, SLt Majdoub is working as a bridge watch keeper in HMCS Charlottetown and learning the evolutions that take place on the bridge of a Halifax-class frigate.

“It’s been fantastic having SLt Majdoub with us in HMCS Charlottetown,” said Commander Nathan Decicco, Commanding Officer of Charlottetown. “His professionalism and eagerness to learn is evident, and we were equally interested in learning from him. He integrated seamlessly with our officers and sailors, and it’s been a pleasure having him on board. We hope to work with him again one day.”

During Operation NANOOK, SLt Majdoub took the time to tell us more about himself and his experience with the RCN, and here is what he had to share:

Q. Why did you join the Tunisian Navy?

A. Because of the culture in Tunisia, there is a high prestige and importance about serving your country, particularly in the navy. The level of education for engineering in the Naval Military College has a high reputation. The navy also provides an opportunity to work and travel around the world. I am from a coastal city and that’s where my passion for any naval topic comes from.

Q. How was your experience with the RCN?

A. The experience was excellent because this was my first time sailing outside of Mediterranean waters and up north to the Arctic. I also enjoyed being on a warship as developed as HMCS Charlottetown, and part of a big fleet. This exchange gave me the chance to explore new techniques for navigation and bridge watch keeping. I practised my English and my maritime communication, which is very important for my career. I also got the opportunity to see new places, including St. John’s, Nuuk, Greenland, and Iqaluit, Nunavut.

Q. What was the best part of your experience?

A. The ambiance of the ship and the relationship between the crew and the officers. I also enjoyed meeting and working with new naval officers. Adapting to this new environment has been really amazing and easy for me. The professionalism of the crew and bridge watch keeping during this deployment provided an ideal environment to develop my skills as a sailor. The ship’s program was full of diverse activities to make this exchange captivating. It was also my first time seeing icebergs and whales.

Q. What were some of the challenges?

A. I am still learning communications as a professional mariner in order to be efficient on the bridge in English.

Q. What have you learned through this experience?

A. From everyday sailing to conducting a shoot with the Hammerhead unmanned remote control gunnery target with other warships, every day there is a lot to learn onboard HMCS Charlottetown. The organization and planning needed to make any event possible often rely on the bridge team; therefore, I am learning to help organize those events. Just learning the new electronic navigation system is amazing.

SLt Majdoub heads back to Tunisia upon completion of Operation NANOOK, with memories that will last a lifetime. What’s next for him? He heads back to Bizerte to complete his training at the Naval Academy, and then back to sailing with the Tunisian Navy.

Op NANOOK is held annually and builds on the Canadian Armed Forces’ ability to operate in austere and challenging environments and to provide a rapid response to national safety and security issues. For this iteration of Operation NANOOK, the RCN worked with the Canadian Army, the Royal Canadian Air Force, other Government of Canada agencies, northern community leadership, and allies, including Denmark and the United States. This year’s exercise took place from August 9-29 in the vicinity of the Labrador and Eastern Arctic Seas.