HMCS Toronto Change of Command reflects a challenging pandemic year
By Joanie Veitch,
Since taking over command of HMCS Toronto in August 2019, Cdr Jeff Dargavel and the ship’s crew faced “a triple crown of increasingly difficult tests” that upended the ship’s sailing schedule, forcing them to adapt and overcome…again and again.
Speaking at his outgoing Change of Command Ceremony on April 16 — held with a limited audience in attendance and others watching via livestream on the HMCS Toronto Facebook page — Cdr Dargavel commended the ship’s crew for staying motivated as they faced each hurdle. First dealing with the aftermath of a fire in the engine room that cancelled their sailing program, then an unexpected docking, and more rescheduling, after a prematurely worn bearing on the starboard shaft required repair work, only to be followed by the biggest and most challenging hurdle of all — COVID-19.
When the ship deployed to Operation REASSURANCE last July, HMCS Toronto was the first unit to conduct all pre-deployment training and preparations under pandemic restrictions, said Cdr Dargavel.
“The pandemic was a total gamechanger as we figured out how to stay healthy,” he said. “We adapted our sailing program and adjusted our plans to suit the harsh restrictions we faced for 191 days confined to the ship during deployment.”
Their success on that mission, however, came from following the same strategy they’d employed with the earlier curveballs, Cdr Dargavel said. “We worked together, communicated effectively and managed the chaos.”
Commending Cdr Dargavel for his service and leadership and for building a “culture of inclusivity” on board the ship, Cmdre Richard Feltham, Commander CANFTLANT, welcomed incoming Commanding Officer, Cdr Preston McIntosh, with words of encouragement, and a note of caution.
“You have no idea how much this ship will consume your every waking moment…how the crew and the readiness of the vessel will be your full-time concern day in and day out,” he said.
Thanking outgoing Cdr Dargavel and Cmdre Feltham, Cdr McIntosh noted that his wife, Nicole, may have the most difficult job at present — sorting out how to move their home in the midst of a pandemic — before addressing the sailors of HMCS Toronto, calling them “the heart of the ship.”
In an earlier ceremony — also limited in-person attendance and livestreamed online — CPO1 Steve Turgeon, who was previously Chief at Naval Fleet School (Atlantic), took over the position of Coxswain of HMCS Toronto from CPO1 John Oake.
CPO1 Oake, who was appointed to Toronto in August 2019 and is going to NATO School Overmmergau (NSO) in Germany, said he first “crossed the brow” of Toronto as an Ordinary Seaman in January 1994.
“I began my sailing career with Toronto and will end it with her,” he said, as he commended the crew for making the past 19 months the “most memorable” of his career as they prepared for their deployment amidst a global pandemic.
Thanking him for his service with Toronto, outgoing Cdr Dargavel commended CPO1 Oake for his ability to build relationships, and his optimism.
“He always sees the good in people and lets that guide his approach.”