Lieutenant-Commander Calley Gray: Proud to be part of the RCN

Navy News / October 23, 2020

Lieutenant-Commander (LCdr) Calley Gray joined the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) as a Marine Systems Engineering Officer more than 16 years ago, while completing secondary school in her home province.

“Even though I grew up in Nova Scotia, I didn’t know much about the armed forces. At first I was attracted by the free university education, then I started exploring my options for enrolling. The Navy seemed like the best choice for me, since I’d spent my whole life living near the ocean and I liked the idea of being assigned near my family.”

Her work is extremely rewarding and offers plenty of challenges. Currently, she is managing the surface fleet program at the Fleet Maintenance Facility in Esquimalt, B.C., and supervises the work periods for all of the operational surface vessels.

“My biggest challenge so far has been the modernization of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Winnipeg. When a ship is refitted, the systems are completely disassembled and overhauled. For five months, my department worked long hours because we had to meet a tight deadline. The pace was intense, but in the end we reactivated the ship on time.”

For LCdr Gray, the challenges of her chosen profession are many, and so are the opportunities. The RCN has enabled her to study at two of the best universities in the world. First, she completed her bachelor of science in mechanical engineering at the Royal Military College (RMC) in Kingston, then a double master’s in mechanical engineering and naval architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, near Boston.

“Both universities offer excellent programs, but my experiences in each of them were very different. RMC was where I grew the most, because to earn a degree you have to excel not only academically, but also in leadership, athletics and bilingualism.”

“After completing my degree at RMC, I worked for five years on the ships and in the training system with new recruits, before deciding that I wanted to go back to school and do my master’s. It was a childhood dream for me to go to MIT but, even then, I knew it would be difficult to pay the tuition. I was very happy when I was accepted at MIT and my tuition fees were covered by the Forces.”

LCdr Gray has been assigned to three different frigates – HMCS Calgary, HMCS Ottawa and HMCS Winnipeg – and has deployed twice to South America and once to Southeast Asia.

“The deployments are always a lot of fun. I tend to adopt the ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality. When we’re at sea, I’m focused on the mission; when the ship docks to visit a new country, I like to go out exploring with my colleagues. I’ve seen a lot of things in the world, thanks to the Navy.”

When asked what Women’s History Month means to her, she had this to say:

“Women’s History Month is a source of motivation for me. It gives me the opportunity to reflect on the actions of pioneering women and the obstacles they had to overcome. I’m proud to be part of an organization that offers equal pay for men and women and that acknowledges and honours everyone, regardless of their gender. The RCN is for everyone, and here women can achieve their full potential.”