New RCN Command Chief Petty Officer says exciting times are ahead

Navy News / July 12, 2019

By Ryan Melanson

The Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) new Command Chief Petty Officer will be a familiar face to many who’ve spent time at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Halifax or with the Atlantic fleet.

Chief Petty Officer 1st Class (CPO1) David Steeves served the majority of his career on the East Coast, beginning with his first posting to Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Skeena in 1990. He also sailed in HMC ships Nipigon, Charlottetown, Athabaskan and Iroquois, along with a number of shore postings, and he served a year as CFB Halifax Base Chief from 2017-2018. He followed that up with a posting as Formation Chief to Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC), where he familiarized himself with RCN business on the West Coast.

Now, with three decades of service behind him, the sailor from Riverview, N.B., finds himself in Ottawa as the RCN’s senior non-commissioned officer (NCO). He took over the RCN Command Chief Petty Officer appointment from CPO1 Michel Vigneault on June 12 at the RCN change of command ceremony in Halifax.

While the top NCO job comes with a long list of new demands and responsibilities, CPO1 Steeves said he’ll continue promoting positive attitudes and even encouraging sailors to have a bit of fun at work, something he’s put a focus on throughout his career.

“Having fun is my number one priority. If people are happy at work, things are going to go more smoothly.”

He added that he was thankful to spend a year with MARPAC before taking over in Ottawa, which gave him a much-needed crash course in the subtle differences in the way the two coasts operate. In a job that involves succession planning and overseeing the 109 CPO1s below him, having a full understanding of the organization is crucial.

“Now, having spent the time at MARPAC, I really feel like I know all our chiefs, and that’s incredibly important when it comes to managing their careers,” he said.

Taking care of the physical and mental health of RCN personnel and their families will remain a priority for the new command team, continuing with the “People First, Mission Always” approach that’s been emphasized in recent years. Serious efforts are being made to prevent sailors from burning out, and very few individuals are spending more than 180 days at sea per year, CPO1 Steeves said.

That being said, there will be hard work and tough choices ahead, and part of the Command CPO role involves communicating the intent behind those tough decisions to other seniors chiefs and down to sailors throughout the RCN.

“Educating our people is key. The sailors don’t necessarily need to like every decision, but we do need them to understand the reasoning behind it and what we’re trying to do as a navy.”

CPO1 Steeves steps into the role during an exciting period for the RCN, ahead of an upcoming revitalization that will see an average of one new RCN ship delivered each year for the next decade and a half. He noted that recruitment and retention will continue to be important to ensure new Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, Joint Support Ships and Canadian Surface Combatants can be properly crewed with trained sailors when the time comes.

“We have to make sure we do our due diligence. We’ve got to have our new training centres established and ready to go, and get a smooth change right from the Canadian Patrol Frigate to the new Canadian Surface Combatant,” CPO1 Steeves said, adding that senior members will also need to do their part in embracing new technologies and being flexible with changes to the way the navy crews and operates its warships.

“We always fear the unknown a little bit, but we need the mindset of being open to change as we head into this. We’re going to give them all the tools they need to get out there and do the business.”

Article courtesy of Trident Newspaper