Meet the Coxswains from Operation CARIBBE

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Navy News / June 11, 2021

By Captain Sarah Harasymchuk

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Brandon and Saskatoon left Esquimalt, B.C., on February 18, 2021, to start a three-month deployment on Operation CARIBBE. After a highly successful deployment with many drug interdictions, both ships returned to port on May 21.

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 American-led multinational mission to suppress trafficking in international waters.

The coxswains on board have a critical role in the ship to ensure high standards of deportment, to maintain discipline and to ensure sailors have a voice to the Command Team.

Here’s more about HMCS Brandon’s Coxswain, Petty Officer 1st Class (PO1) Keith Parsons, a Weapons Engineering Technician by trade:

Are you the first person in your family to be in the military? Yes, I am the first in my family to join the Forces.

Where was your favorite place to sail in your career? That is a tough one, as I have been all over the world, and each place has its own uniqueness about it.

How did you get such an excellent crew on board? I ask myself that very question almost daily. The morale on board is nothing like I’ve seen before. It helps when you have a smaller crew and everyone buys into the mission. Every evolution on board requiring the entire ship’s company allows everyone to come together quickly.

Why did you choose to join the Navy in particular? That is a funny story: when I went to the recruiting office, I actually wanted to join the combat arms trades, as I didn't really know anything about the Royal Canadian Navy. Now that I have spent almost 21 years in the Navy, I am pretty confident that I made the right choice.

What do you miss the most when you’re at sea? I would have to say my kids, Ethan and Mason, hands down.

The Coxswain of HMCS Saskatoon, PO1 Kenny Sparkes, is a Boatswain by trade. Here’s what he loves the most about being at sea:

Where was your favourite place to sail in your career? I loved London, U.K.

Would you rather be able to control the winds or the tides at sea? The wind.

What’s your favourite smell on ship? The smell of fresh coffee when I first wake up, mmmm.

What’s your biggest comfort factor on ship? My memory foam mattress!

What is your favourite activity to do in free time while at sea? Surf the news or read a good book.

What motivates you to be the coxswain of the ship? Knowing that I have input and an impact on the day-to-day routine and morale of the ship’s company.

What do you miss the most when you’re at sea? My family of course!

What’s the first thing you do after a long sail? After all the hugs, I like to grab a good coffee, sit and just soak up the realization that I’m home again.

If you could have any superpower in the world what would it be? To clone myself so one of me can be home and the other here!