Living the dream – Cdr Nancy Setchell, Commanding Officer, HMCS Charlottetown
by Mike Avery,
Born and raised in Midland, Ontario, Cdr Nancy Setchell is currently living a dream come true as the Commanding Officer of HMCS Charlottetown.
Her journey in the Royal Canadian Navy began in 1995 when she attended the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario graduating with Honours in 1999 and receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English. She then embarked on her career as a Naval Warfare Officer, a career which has taken her to both coasts, the mainland and overseas on Operation APOLLO. “I joined because I wanted to attend the Royal Military College of Canada and to become a ship’s Captain,” said Cdr Setchell. “I grew up sailing on tall ships in Georgian Bay.”
Cdr Setchell went on to complete a Masters in Defence Studies before she served as Executive Officer of Montréal from 2014 to 2016. She was then promoted to the rank of Commander and became the Chief of Staff (Administration) to the Commander of Canadian Fleet Atlantic for one year. This path prepared her for the prestigious appointment of Captain of Charlottetown.
Her first day in the Captain’s seat of Charlottetown was on September 25. It was a day sail which hosted senior leaders attending the Canadian Forces Chief Warrant Officer Conference in Halifax. It was everything that she wanted and more, but also a very nerve-racking experience due to the fact that she was being closely watched by her superiors during her first sail. Everything went extremely well thanks to her experience and the efforts of the ship’s crew. Cdr Setchell would like everyone to know that the sailors of the Royal Canadian Navy are dedicated citizens who willingly sacrifice the time they could spend at home with their families in order to represent Canada’s interests at home and abroad. They truly represent the very best of Canadian values.
“Commanding HMCS Charlottetown means so much. As a person, it’s the summit of my professional goals,” says Cdr Setchell, “As a mom, it feels great to serve as an example of what women can do. As a proud Canadian, I am humbled by the responsibility and opportunity to serve my country,”
This accomplished trailblazer is only the second woman to have ever commanded a major Canadian warship since Cmdre Josée Kurtz commanded Halifax in 2009. She is one of many women furthering the advancement of females in the Royal Canadian Navy. She cites Cmdre Kurtz as a role model. Cdr Setchell’s own mother, a kindergarten teacher who taught her own daughter while concurrently completing a degree and raising a family, is another role model.
Cdr Setchell is a busy mother of two girls. Her husband retired from the Navy over a year ago to manage their family’s work/life integration. In their spare time, the family’s favourite activities include skiing and going to the cottage. She also serves on the Advisory Board to the Dean of the Faculty of Management at Dalhousie University and volunteers with Women United at the Halifax United Way.
Now that Cdr Setchell has accomplished her most significant career-related goal to date, her plan is to enjoy the time she will spend as the commander of a Canadian warship. Charlottetown is currently preparing for an upcoming deployment and Cdr Setchell is looking forward to further experiences and adventures as she continues to live the dream in the Royal Canadian Navy.