Divers remember PO2 Craig Blake at Fitness Challenge
By Ryan Melanson,
This past May marked 10 years since PO2 Craig Blake, an RCN clearance diver, was killed in Afghanistan, but his memory lives on at his former unit and with the many sailors who called him a friend, colleague and mentor.
As they’ve done each September since 2011, personnel from Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic) got together recently to honour PO2 Blake by taking part in one of his favourite activities – triathlon. The PO2 Craig Blake Memorial Fitness challenge is normally held at MacDonald Beach, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s event was pared down, had less participants, and was held right outside FDU(A)’s main building in Shearwater for a short, exciting race on September 18.
S1 Mark Littler, FDU(A)’s main organizer for the event in recent years, said the unit was determined to keep the annual tradition going in some form, even if it couldn’t happen in the usual format. Having the race right at FDU(A)’s home base, with only the tight-knit diving community and a handful of former members and other colleagues joining in, ended up feeling quite appropriate at the 10-year-anniversary of PO2 Blake’s death, he added.
“It’s very important to us. Craig was a guy who had a locker here, he was one of us and a buddy to a lot of people. I didn’t know him personally, but his presence is still very much felt here.”
S1 Littler also gave a thank-you to PSP Halifax for helping with the day, even though this year’s race wasn’t an official PSP sanctioned event. PSP staff were on hand to help wipe down equipment and with first-aid gear, while the Corporate Sponsorship team provided refreshments and lunch for the day courtesy of Tim Hortons, Sobeys and Domino’s Pizza, as well as prizes for the winners.
Among those participating in the race who called PO2 Blake a personal friend was LCdr (Ret’d) Kharim Schliewinsky, who was a clearance diver at FDU(A) before becoming a CAF doctor. He said catching up with old colleagues, as well as members of PO2 Blake’s family at the race, was great, and pushing himself physically was the perfect way to remember his friend.
“He was a great guy, of course, kind and level-headed, but it’s his energy that made him stand out. Between the triathlons, and cycling, and hockey, and his family, and still being involved in the community, we used to think ‘How does he do it?’”
LCdr Neville Lockyer, FDU(A)’s new Commanding Officer, echoed those comments about PO2 Blake, and gave his personnel all the credit for organizing a great day in his memory.
“This is everything he believed in, it’s physical fitness, it’s training, it’s camaraderie, and the spirit of Craig is strong here today. We’re happy we could be here and abide by the COVID restrictions to allow this to happen,” he said.