Lieutenant Commander Paul Smith

Atlantic Region News / February 21, 2017

Lieutenant Commander Paul Smith is busy preparing for his first deployment to West Africa after three years of commanding two Kingston-class ships Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships Kingston and Summerside based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

 Smith has been meeting with historians and experts to learn more about African heritage, and Nova Scotia’s deep connection with Sierra Leone. He said “Anytime I travel somewhere I like to learn a bit about the place before I go. Where there is such a deep connection with Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone, it’s important to know the details.”

Smith and his crew aboard HMCS Summerside are getting ready to take part in Neptune Trident 17-1 and will work with partner navies in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of West Africa. He described his team as being “a well-oiled machine,” and says the hardest part of being in command is stepping back and letting the team do its job. “Being a leader means knowing when to make decisions and letting the team advise you on the next course of action.”

Paul Smith was born in Lionel Town, Jamaica, and moved to Canada with his family at age 6. He grew up in Ontario before moving to Halifax in his teens to complete military basic training at 19, after being enrolled in the Royal Canadian Navy in 1986. In 1999 Smith became a Sub-Lieutenant and accepted his commission after nearly 14 years of being a Non Commissioned Member (NCM). He kept moving through the ranks and was promoted to his current rank in January 2010. He was appointed commanding officer of his first ship, HMCS Kingston, in July 2014.

Lieutenant Commander Smith says he found out three days before assuming command of HMCS Kingston that he would host the prime minister on board. This was during one of former Prime Minister, Stephen Harper’s Northern Tours, and during Kingston’s participation in the patrol of the Canadian Arctic in search for the lost Franklin expedition ships HMS Erebus and Terror. He says “the Arctic was fantastic, anybody ever given the opportunity to go there should take it.”

Smith recognizes the importance of working with other navies, learning and collaborating together. He said it is important to be able to learn from allied countries during joint exercises with NATO to understand how their command teams work, figuring out what might work for your ship and what wouldn’t. “I love working with other navies, to be able to see how somebody else is running their organization you need to be able to step outside of yours and see how other leaders work,” Smith said.

During Operation CARIBBE 2016 Smith was in charge of HMCS Summerside when they set sail for  the Caribbean, to participate in the multinational campaign against drug trafficking. During their participation in the operation, HMCS Summerside intercepted nearly $11 million worth of cocaine.

“I’ve been extremely fortunate throughout my career. I’ve been to the Arctic, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and now the West Coast of Africa, in just three years of being in command. Being commander is the best job in the Navy, and anybody who is in command will tell you that.” He describes himself as a professional mariner, having spent nearly 25 years on ship, and says “I am a big fan of new experiences.”