Open house shows off Navy hardware

Victorians got an opportunity to step into the shoes of the people who protect our country at Defence on the Dock, an open house event to show off the Royal Canadian Navy, on Sunday at Ogden Point.

This was the second year of the event, which attracted thousands of people.

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The public took guided tours on HMCS Winnipeg, a Halifax-class frigate, HMCS Edmonton, a coastal defence vessel and the PCT (Patrol Craft Training) Renard, an Orca-class vessel.

About 500 lucky visitors also won tours of HMCS Chicoutimi, a Victoria-class submarine based at CFB Esquimalt. “The ship is a big draw,” said Lt.-Cmdr. James Classen, officer in charge of Chicoutimi. All day long, groups of 30 people took a 30-minute tour, seeing the weapons room, crew quarters and the operations room.

Classen sees the event as an opportunity for “the people to see their navy”.

It is also a way for different departments to showcase their contribution to the military.

The Fleet Maintenance Facility, Cape Breton is the section that helps keep machinery running at peak efficiency.

Its 900 civilian members augment 100 military to maintain and repair anything that may be found in and around a ship. “The navy relies on us to keep everything up and operating,” said Ryan Solomon, the group manager of the section.

His section offers apprenticeships for trades the navy counts on: machinists, metal fabricators, millwrights, painters, shipwrights, riggers and more.

“With 30 to 40 per cent of our workplace able to retire in the next five years, we are actively looking for people to replenish the ranks,” said Solomon.

Civilian employees working in a supporting role include Angie Lavergne, a civilian reservist with the urban search and rescue team with her two hard-working partners, Moxxii and Wicca. You will likely only see them in action if there’s a disaster, such as an earthquake or flood, where her canine partners’ keen sense of smell will enable them to find victims buried under rubble.

If the warships represent the most visible aspect of the navy, members of the Naval Tactical Operations Group are possibly the most invisible. Its members carry out missions that call for stealth.

“The ships of the navy are what the public usually see,” said Brent Bethell, a chief petty officer, 2nd class who works on boarding parties. “We are more unknown.”

If any of the missions involve them jumping out of a helicopter, they would probably do so out of a CH-148 Cyclone attached to 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron.

People who wanted to look back at the rich history of the Armed Forces were rewarded with a collection of military vehicles from Ashton Armoury and a display borrowed from the CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum.

The Royal Canadian Navy is made up of about 8,300 regular members and 3,600 reserve members. They are supported by close to 3,800 civilians.

parrais@timescolonist.com

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