REGULUS in Antarctica: Learning the tricks of the trade

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Navy News / March 3, 2016

By Acting Sub-Lieutenant Kyle Reed

For those lucky enough to sail in Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Protector, a Royal Navy ice patrol ship, the days are anything but average. That is what Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) Lieutenant Dale Molenaar and Sub-Lieutenant Mathieu Simard have found since joining the ship in December 2015 as a part of the RCN’s REGULUS program.

Since 2010, more than 150 RCN sailors have participated in the REGULUS program, which has provided an opportunity to experience unique training and be exposed to the diverse cultures of our many allied navies. Lt (N) Molenaar, a Marine Systems Engineering Officer, and SLt Simard, a Maritime Surface and Sub-Surface (MARS) Officer, will complete their time in HMS Protector and return to their home units with distinct knowledge tailored to their trades.

“This has been a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” explains Lt (N) Molenaar. “In my short six-year career with the RCN, I’ve stepped foot on every continent and sailed on all of the world’s oceans. It has been a good experience to see a different method of accomplishing the same goals and learning a different ship.”

Not only do these opportunities benefit officers and non-commissioned members, they also benefit the RCN as a whole. Programs like REGULUS help ensure that Regular Force and Reserve sailors receive equal opportunities to practise their trade outside a classroom or simulator. SLt Simard, a reservist from Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Montcalm, is practising navigation and ship handling in an Arctic setting. It is a rare opportunity, and one that he will incorporate into his expertise as he continues to gain seniority.

“I’ve only sailed in maritime coastal defence vessels, so this was the first time I’ve sailed in a major warship,” says SLt Simard. “My most memorable experience was when we broke through ice during a work period on the way to the Ross Sea in Antarctica. I was in the Arctic last summer on board HMCS Moncton as part of Operation Nanook and our ship didn’t have the capability to break ice, so being on this ship is a really different experience.”

Providing sailors with the skills required to circumnavigate oceans both in open water and through ice is paramount for the RCN as it prepares for delivery of its own ice-capable warships. The first vessel of the Harry DeWolf class is scheduled for delivery in 2018, with its first patrol expected in 2019. Its sailors, from the Regular Force and Reserves, will need to understand the demands of operating in an Arctic environment.

REGULUS is providing Lt(N) Molenaar and SLt Simard with this expertise, while giving them life experience they can carry with them throughout their careers. This is important because the RCN is not only responsible for producing technical experts, but also well-rounded leaders with global perspectives.