By Joanie Veitch,
Although a pandemic wasn’t on their mind at the time, leadership at HMCS Brunswicker employed new technology in the summer of 2019 that ended up putting the unit in an ideal position to deal with COVID-19 restrictions.
The Naval Reserve Division in Saint John, New Brunswick started using video software to open a Moncton satellite location of HMCS Brunswicker almost two years ago, so when travel rules and gathering limits came into effect in 2020, the crew was already familiar with working virtually. This meant they could continue their training and work to advance the unit.
“Now everybody is doing virtual meetings, but when it was set up for the reservists in Moncton, the driving force was to give them more quality of life,” explains HMCS Brunswicker Commanding Officer Cdr Marc Brown.
Prior to the Moncton satellite setting up at 37 Canadian Brigade Group, an Army Reserve unit in Moncton, reservists from the area — many of them with full-time careers and families — had to travel to and from Saint John for training, two times a week and one Saturday a month.
Now instead of a 300-kilometre commute, sailors in Moncton train using video and phone technology to connect them to Brunswicker in Saint John.
“They would work all day then go home and eat supper — if they were lucky — and then drive an hour and a half to Saint John to train for three hours, and then drive back home again. It was rough on them, and rough on their families,” said Cdr Brown.
HMCS Brunswicker’s Moncton satellite unit currently has five reservists, with 14 more in the wings, waiting for their applications and background checks to be approved, a process that slowed down significantly due to COVID-19 restrictions, Cdr Brown added.
“We were really starting to make good headway with recruitment when COVID hit. It set us back a bit but we will get it going again. The main focus for me and our senior leadership is recruiting and getting the message out in the Moncton area that we are here.”
Along with efforts to expand opportunities for naval reservists in New Brunswick, Cdr Brown and HMCS Brunswicker are also working on a naval memorial project on Saint John’s Harbour Passage waterfront trail to begin construction this year.
The new memorial will be a replica of the bow of HMCS Saint John, a River-class frigate that served in the Second World War and was present during Operation NEPTUNE on D-Day. It will provide a permanent place to mark significant naval dates and anniversaries, and to acknowledge New Brunswick’s contribution to the Royal Canadian Navy, said Cdr Brown.
“New Brunswick has a long naval history that hasn’t always been recognized. We want to build this memorial to pay homage to that history and the people who served in the Royal Canadian Navy.”