Living the Dream - Commander Nancy Setchell, Commanding Officer, HMCS Charlottetown

Navy News / October 19, 2018

Commander Nancy Setchell is one of many women furthering the advancement of females in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). She is only the second woman to have commanded a major Canadian warship since Commodore Josée Kurtz commanded Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Halifax in 2009.

Born and raised in Midland, Ont., Cdr Setchell is currently living a dream come true as the Commanding Officer of HMCS Charlottetown in Halifax.

Her journey in the RCN began in 1995 when she attended the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ont. She graduated with Honours in 1999 and received a Bachelor of Arts in English. She then embarked on her career as a Naval Warfare Officer; a career which has taken her to both coasts and overseas as part of Operation APOLLO.

“I joined because I wanted to attend the Royal Military College of Canada and to become a ship’s Captain,” said Cdr Setchell. “I grew up sailing on tall ships in Georgian Bay.”

Cdr Setchell went on to complete a Masters in Defence Studies before serving as Executive Officer of HMCS Montréal. She was then promoted to the rank of Commander and became the Chief of Staff (Administration) to the Commander of Canadian Fleet Atlantic. This path prepared her to be the Commanding Officer of HMCS Charlottetown.

Her first day in the Captain’s seat of HMCS Charlottetown was a day sail which hosted senior leaders attending the Canadian Forces Chief Warrant Officer Conference in Halifax.

The experience was everything she wanted and more, but it was also a nerve-wracking experience as she was being closely watched by her superiors. Those nerves were unwarranted however, as everything went extremely well thanks to her extensive experience and the efforts of the ship’s crew.

“Commanding HMCS Charlottetown means so much. As a person, it’s the summit of my professional goals,” said Cdr Setchell. “As a mom, it feels great to serve as an example of what women can do. As a proud Canadian, I am humbled by the responsibility and opportunity to serve my country.”

Cdr Setchell is a busy mother of two wonderful girls. She also serves on the Advisory Board to the Dean of the Faculty of Management at Dalhousie University and volunteers with Women United at the Halifax United Way. She cites Cmdre Kurtz as a role model in addition to her own mother, a kindergarten teacher who taught her own daughter while concurrently completing a degree and raising a family. Her husband retired from the RCN over a year ago to manage their family’s work/life integration. In their spare time, the family’s favourite activities include skiing and going to the cottage.

Now that Cdr Setchell has accomplished her most significant career-related goal to date, her plan is to enjoy the time she will spend as the Commander of a Canadian warship. Charlottetown is currently preparing for a future deployment and Cdr Setchell is looking forward to further experiences and adventures as she continues to “live the dream” in the RCN.