Meet HMCS Saskatoon’s Executive Officer deployed on Operation CARIBBE

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Navy News / May 14, 2021

By Captain Sarah Harasymchuk, deployed Public Affairs Officer, Op CARIBBE

Operation CARIBBE is Canada’s participation in the U.S.-led enhanced counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean Sea and the eastern Pacific Ocean. Naval warships and aircraft deploy to the region on a rotational basis to support the multinational mission to suppress trafficking in international waters.

Lieutenant (Navy) Blake Zazula is currently deployed on Op CARIBBE as the Executive Officer on board Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) Saskatoon. His role is to advise the Commanding Officer, oversee training on board and ensure the morale and welfare of the crew. Let’s find out who he is:

Where was your favourite place to sail in your career? Valparaiso, Chile. I had a chance to bring my road bike on our deployment and cycle around some of the cities that we visited. The historical downtown is beautiful and the people were extremely welcoming, and I had awesome shipmates to tour around with me; it was a blast.

Would you rather be able to control the winds or the tides at sea? Winds. No more tricky alongsides. Wind can add a lot of complexity to an otherwise easy alongside.

What’s your favourite smell on ship? It’s a tie between coffee and barbecue… or both! We had a banyan (a barbecue on a ship), I was drinking my coffee and helping the cooks with dinner to prepare burgers over a charcoal fire -- that was a good smell day!

How did you get such an excellent crew onboard? We encourage all of our leadership to actively get to know and care for their departments. Pandemics suck, and those gestures and words build understanding, which creates a positive culture.  That really carried on after we started to sail again, it set the tone and made everyone feel welcome. To keep what we have going we need to talk.  We encourage candor and honest feedback with positive intent onboard, which keeps dialogue open and improves how we operate.

Why did you choose to join the Navy in particular? I had a mentor as sailing instructor who was in the Navy who sold me on the idea. I liked the ocean, I liked ships, I heard there would be lots of opportunity to travel so it seemed right up my alley. So far, so good… would recommend to a friend.

What do you miss the most when you’re at sea? My wife and kids. My family brings me so much joy; that is by far the thing I miss most when I am at sea.

What’s the first thing you do after a long sail? I am cooking dinner! I do the majority of the cooking when I am home and my wife, Liz, is very much happy to give up that responsibility.

What’s your favourite part about your job? I like fixing problems. Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (MCDVs) have small crews that need to create a ton of capability for mission success, which means the little things matter as they can become big problems later. The Coxswain and I do our best to identify the small things before they become big things.

Are the MCDVs well suited to deploy on this operation? Absolutely! This platform works well for this operation. My biggest worries aren’t platform-based, but based on the health and wellbeing of the ship’s company; things like heat exhaustion and fatigue need to be managed all of the time. 

Why is this mission on Operation CARIBBE important? Every year partner nations intercept and seize millions of dollars of illicit substances. Disrupting transnational drug organizations that have contributed to so much harm both at home and abroad is a critical part of the operation.

Find out more about Op CARIBBE and the successful drug interdictions HMCS Saskatoon was involved in.