After 43 years of service, it’s the people, says CPO2 Gourlay
“It was an honour to receive that,” says Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class (CPO2), Jeffrey Gourlay of his Canadian Forces Decoration 3rd Clasp, recognizing his remarkable 43 years with the Royal Canadian Navy. “But it was not a surprise. I knew I had that much time in,” he adds with a laugh.
Joining the reserves as a summer job in his teens, CPO2 Gourlay is proud of his contributions to the Navy across his four decades of service. Highlights include his time as Chief Engineer of then Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Moncton, serving as coxswain with HMCS Prevost and being a member of the commissioning crew for three different ships.
“I think it is a little bit unique. More [time served] than most people have in their career,” CPO2 Gourlay said. Some of his most notable experiences are those he shared with crew who became close friends by working through challenging operations together.
“Working with other people through challenges is a challenge in itself. I’ve had friends for over 40 years that are from the Navy. I’m still in touch with them,” he said. “A huge part of the job is the great people.”
One of those operations was a search and recovery mission following the 1998 Swissair flight 111 tragedy. All 229 passengers and crew were killed after the flight went down near Peggy’s Cove, NS travelling from New York City, NY to Geneva, Switzerland.
CPO2 Gourlay was part of the 32 member crew aboard a Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel that responded to the disaster..
“Some of the challenges I’ve worked with help bring people together and make a very close group” he said.
For CPO2 Gourlay, the closeness and cooperation of a crew is crucial to the success of their operations.
“In a shipboard environment you are with your shipmates 24 hours a day. Sometimes for weeks at a time. You live and work closely together. With everyone working together for a common goal you make a strong, close-knit team,” he said. “That’s what makes us effective.”
The relationships CPO2 Gourlay formed in the Navy have been rewarding. He and some of his colleagues have kept in touch as their careers took them in different directions. CPO2 Gourlay spent some of his career in farm equipment sales and then with Agriculture Canada before returning to the Navy full time, while some fellow sailors retired and moved into different careers.
“My social life still involves people who are retired on a regular basis. Some are close friends that I see several times a year,” he said. “It’s the Navy, and particularly the Naval Reserve that is the common thread. The Naval Reserve has always been a part of my wife’s and my social life, as it is for most reservists.”
“The camaraderie outside of work builds a stronger team when we do work together.”