Naval Exchange Officer from Ghana shares her RCN experience
By Lt(N) Linda Coleman and SLt Synclesia Wenia Pwatirah,
SLt Synclesia Wenia Pwatirah was provided with an opportunity that not many members of her Navy have experienced before – an exchange position with the RCN and the chance to sail across the Atlantic Ocean.
Coming from the Ghana Navy, Slt Pwatirah joined HMCS Kingston and HMCS Summerside for Op PROJECTION West Africa, a strategic engagement with West African nations to support capacity building, foster relationships, and participate in Obangame Express 2018.
She joined the ships in Halifax and disembarked once they arrived in her home country on March 17. She spent a total of 51 days with the RCN, including port visits and alongside engagements in Antigua, Cape Verde, Senegal, Liberia, Abidjan and Nigeria. She shares her story and experience with us below:
“I was excited about this experience because it was going to provide me with a great opportunity to see how the Royal Canadian Navy worked, and we could also exchange ideas on how practices were carried out in both navies. There was also another exchange officer from Cote D’Ivoire. Since there were two ships embarking on the passage, there was one of us on each ship.
My journey started on January 20, 2018 when I departed Ghana for Halifax. I arrived quite late and was met by the Executive Officer of HMCS Kingston, Lt(N) Andrea Murray. She came to the airport with some warm clothing for me since the temperatures were quite low. I was then taken to my accommodation at Juno Towers.
I knew the weather would be extremely cold. As to the country and the people, I usually like to keep an open mind about new places but I hoped it would be nice and the people would be welcoming. One of my fears though was the fact that I was travelling alone to a place so far away from home. All I hoped for was an exciting experience.
The next few days were spent getting our kit from the clothing store and then we joined the ship’s company for pre-deployment training. We also paid a courtesy call with the Commander Canadian Fleet Atlantic, Commodore Craig Skjerpen, who welcomed us to the Royal Canadian Navy Fleet and also encouraged us to learn as much as we could whilst on the passage.
My experience onboard HMCS Kingston has been a great one. I was made to feel welcomed as a member of the ship’s company. I was attached to each of the officers as they went to perform Watches on the bridge. I observed all the evolutions that were carried out at sea and I also actively involved myself in community relations activities carried out whilst alongside.
This offered me a great opportunity to see first-hand how practices were carried out. I observed that most of the evolutions and exercises that were carried out were similar to how the Ghana Navy also did theirs. Evolutions that were performed included firefighting, replenishment at sea, and towing among other onboard evolutions whilst underway. A few differences were observed, but these could be linked to best practices adopted to suit the different environments in which each force operated.
I believe this program has been a good experience for me because it has offered me an opportunity to work with different nationals. It has also broadened my ideas about how these exercises are conducted. Another great experience I have had from this trip is the visit to the different countries. In total, seven countries were visited on this passage and I have only been to one out of these. Hence it was an opportunity for me to visit unique places in these countries.
Personally, now I feel I can integrate very well and confidently into any society. This is the first time I have had to work for an extended period of time in a completely different environment and I would say it has been a good experience. Also, I have made some really good friends I hope to keep for many years to come. The navy is not just a job, it is a way of life. Live it as best as you can.”
HMCS Kingston and Summerside are deployed on Op PROJECTION West Africa until mid-April 2018.