Looking into the Regulus Program

MARLANT - Admiral's View / June 19, 2014

This has been a week of achievement for the Royal Canadian Navy and at the heart of every success is a story about people.  Focused trials’ teams drove a successful missile exercise aboard the lead frigate of the Halifax Class Modernization.   Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic returned from Latvia where they assisted NATO in destroying legacy Second World War munitions.  The crew of HMCS Regina effortlessly shifted from maritime security operations in the Arabian Sea to NATO reassurance measures in the Mediterranean.  Finally, in the Caribbean, the crew of HMCS Summerside and clearance divers from Halifax trained partner navies from the Americas during Exercise Trade Winds 2014.

Every time I hear feedback about our sailors achieving results like these I muse about the complex training and experiential system that prepares them to be stellar ambassadors of Canada.  Their achievements reflect positively on a strong naval training system, continuous learning and active mentorship.  Moreover, a sailor must enjoy a healthy dose of operational experiences.  These need to provide insight into multi-faceted (air-land-sea) task forces, foreign navies, distant and difficult ocean environments, and varied operational scenarios.  Anything less will produce a navy ill-prepared to face the challenges of the 21st century.

A few years back, we perceived that a period of training and experiential shortfall might develop as the Halifax Class entered a six-year modernization program.  The modernization followed close on the heels of recruiting success that was injecting hundreds of junior personnel into the navy’s schoolhouses and fleet.   The last thing desired was to deliver modernized frigates but lacking the deeply experienced crews necessary to operate the technology to full effect.  Initiatives had to be undertaken to provide sailors access to a healthy learning environment despite the reduction of available hulls aboard which to train them.

One of the methods implemented to address the challenge is called the Regulus Program.  Regulus has dispatched 120 sailors to foreign navies to serve aboard warships, research vessels and coast guard cutters.  Typically, deployments do not exceed six months.  As desired, Regulus has provided participating sailors with a rich cross section of real world operational experiences in distant ocean areas while immersing them in foreign cultures.   Additional benefit is realized as our personnel return infused with insight into varied technological solutions to operational challenges.

Our sailors have served in the navies of Australia, Chile, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, United Kingdom, and United States.  Their experiences tend to be life altering and career building.  Many participants have been forced to learn a foreign language through immersion alone.  But the reward of deploying to Patagonia, the Irish Sea, Africa, Antarctica or the deep Pacific Ocean makes the challenge all the more worthwhile.  They have sailed on sovereignty and fishery patrols, tended aids to navigation, conducted search and rescue, and undertaken capacity building in less developed regions.  Some have resupplied remote outposts, assisted with the provision of medical and dental care to distant protectorates, and sailed in multi-national training events not normally joined by the Royal Canadian Navy.  Ashore, they have participated in garrison and training activities of their host navies, and learned the cultural complexities of distant lands.

In return, our navy has reciprocated by sending training teams to foreign naval schools, hosted staff talks and promoted new partnership initiatives, accepted foreign members into technical and operational courses in Canada, and in general enjoyed better navy-to-navy relationships through more direct staff linkages.

Officers and non-commissioned members returning home have faired well on career courses and examination Boards.  For some experiencing Antarctic deployments, they have repatriated their experiences to the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship project.  All of these young personnel have developed close friendships with peers in their host navies: relationships that will endure as careers mature, rank increases, and personnel attain leadership roles in their respective navies. 

I am certain these relationships will pay forward as like-minded navies increase collaboration to face the challenges of our era.  For their part, I expect that the participating members will forever remember their international experience as one of the most memorable of their career, and from it they will find the ideas to address the readiness challenges of their navy in the future.  Most importantly, despite a major and ongoing modernization, our training regime did not miss a beat by ensuring our sailors gained appropriate experiential development apace fleet modernization.