Like father, like son

Navy News / January 19, 2017

By Ryan Melanson

It’s likely that any senior naval officer would swell with pride while watching the next generation of sailors leave on a major NATO deployment, but for Captain (Navy) Richard Jean, Chief of Staff for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), the experience of watching Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) St. John’s sail away on January 9, 2017 was made even more special knowing that his son, Lieutenant (Navy) Alex Jean, was onboard as the ship’s navigation officer.

Capt(N) Jean was in Halifax to see the crew off before heading back to Ottawa, and was able to spend some quality time with his son over the weekend before the big departure. He said he was excited and even a bit envious of the young crew as he stood on the jetty, even though a long deployment meant some sad goodbyes were part of the morning for many.

“It reminded me of my very first NATO deployment in 1985 and the excitement about visiting new ports and operating in a big multinational task group. Seeing the smile on Alex’s face reminded me of my own at his age,” he says.

And Lt(N) Jean confirms that the excitement was very real, despite the big task ahead. He has collected a good deal of sea time since coming to the fleet, including a three-month deployment on Operation CARIBBE and a six-month stint on exchange with an Armada de Chile ship. Sailing to the Mediterranean to join Standing NATO Maritime Group 2, however, promises to be a new experience, and one the 27-year-old officer is excited to jump into.

“When you deploy with NATO you get to interact with other ships and other sailors, and sail in formation, which is really impressive. The reason I became a navigator is because I love driving ships and I just love the real sailor aspects of being at sea, so I’ll get a lot of that,” he says.

Growing up around various military bases and around naval life, it might seem natural that Lt(N) Jean would follow in his father’s footsteps, but the reality was quite different. After his father’s different postings required moves across the country, switching schools and making new friends, he didn’t have the highest opinion of the RCN life growing up.

“The truth is that I never wanted to join the navy,” he says. But as he entered his late teens and began thinking of summer jobs and future careers, he decided to see what the Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre had to offer.

“I was very surprised when he first came home with the notion of joining the Naval Reserve,” Capt(N) Jean explains, but adds that he and his wife were supportive of the decision, as well as his choice to continue along the naval path to the Regular Force and study at the Royal Military College of Canada.

Capt(N) Jean jokingly says the surprises continued when he learned his son had picked the Maritime Surface and Sub-Surface (MARS) occupation, again following his father’s path.

“I asked him why he picked MARS and his response was ‘Well Dad, you seemed to like it!’”

Lt(N) Jean says he enjoys having the career connection with his father, but adds he’s also thankful that he was able to carve his own path in life, without any pressure.

“He’s even said to me ‘If you have a better option in the civilian world, go for it,’ but I ported over to the navy quite well. I’ve really enjoyed the people and the camaraderie,” he says. “He’s been very encouraging and I know he’ll continue to be no matter what direction I go in the future.”

Capt(N) Jean shares similar sentiments, and said it’s been enjoyable to share his naval stories, tips and advice with the next generation of both the RCN family and his own family.

“Part of being a naval officer is the opportunity to mentor our subordinates, and this same responsibility applies to being a parent, so imagine how pleased I have been to be able to do both,” he says.