Cmdre French takes command of Canadian Fleet Atlantic

A ceremony aboard HMCS Margaret Brooke on June 28 marked a Change of Command for Canadian Fleet Atlantic. From left, Capt (N) Mike Stefanson, RAdm Josée Kurtz, and incoming Fleet Commander Cmdre Jacob French. MONA GHIZ

Cmdre French takes command of Canadian Fleet Atlantic

By Ryan Melanson,
Trident Staff 

Cmdre Jacob French is the new Commander of Canadian Fleet Atlantic.

The new Commander of Canadian Fleet Atlantic (CCFL) officially took the reins during a ceremony aboard His Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Margaret Brooke on June 28.  

Commodore (Cmdre) Jacob French steps into the job during a busy period for East Coast ships that shows no signs of slowing down, and as the fleet works to fully introduce the Harry-DeWolf class of ships while also planning ahead for the future Canadian Surface Combatants. 

The responsibilities of the job are vast and dynamic, said Rear-Admiral (RAdm) Josée Kurtz, Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic and Joint Task Force Atlantic, who presided over the Change of Command. Cmdre French’s days will involve optimizing ship’s programs at sea and alongside, all while staying focused on sailors’ wellbeing in the face of manpower shortages and the growing maintenance demands associated with an aging fleet in transition. 

“I have no doubt Cmdre French will reach back on his years of experience, view the problems with his own unique lens, lean on the team and welcome their ideas and recommendations,” RAdm Kurtz said. 

Cmdre French takes over the role from Captain (Navy) (Capt(N)) Mike Stefanson, who spent two months as CCFL in what was described as a temporary “caretaker” role. Though his stint was short, RAdm Kurtz praised his work overseeing an extremely active Atlantic Fleet, with eight ships recently at sea simultaneously, supporting several named operations and other initiatives. 

“You should be very proud of your leadership of the people and the resources that supported this tremendous endeavor,” she said to Capt(N) Stefanson. 

Capt(N) Stefanson will now finish up his original appointment as the Fleet’s Deputy Commander before returning to the West Coast, where he’s set to take command of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) Naval Personnel and Training Group (NPTG). 

New CCFL Cmdre French was promoted to his current rank in June after graduating from a National Security and Strategic Studies program at the United States Naval War College. Former appointments include Deputy Commander of Joint Task Force North and Commanding Officer of HMCS Regina, where he led the ship through deployments on Operations Artemis and Projection in the Indo Pacific and Northern Arabian Sea. 

In speaking to peers and members of the fleet for the first time as CCFL, he described the expected challenges of the command during a time of global tension, coupled with the aforementioned challenges currently facing the RCN and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) as a whole. 

“We’re operating in uncertain times, within shifting paradigms that continue to challenge our assumptions,” Cmdre French said. 

“This isn’t an ordinary job or an easy job, but we have an extremely motivated team.” 

To other senior officers and NCOs from the fleet who were gathered for the occasion, the new CCFL advised putting time and focus on developing the next generation of RCN leaders, and to empower their teams to do the same.