‘It’s hard to miss home when you have home with you’

S1 Crystal Cleveland, left, and her brother S3 Bertram Cleveland, are members of the ship’s company of HMCS Montréal. The ship left Halifax on April 14 for a deployment to Operation Horizon in the Indo-Pacific. AVIATOR GREGORY COLE

‘It’s hard to miss home when you have home with you’

Siblings deploy together to Operation Horizon with HMCS Montréal

By Nathan Stone,
Trident Staff

A pair of sibling sailors are deployed together aboard His Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Montréal as it sails from Halifax to the Indo-Pacific in the coming days, thanks in part to a big sister’s enthusiasm for the Navy.  

HMCS Montréal departed on Sunday, April 14 for Operation Horizon, with Sailor 1st Class (S1) Crystal Cleveland and her younger brother Sailor 3rd Class (S3) Bertram Cleveland both aboard for their first sail together.

In 2019, S1 Cleveland was in the early stages of joining the RCMP. She said she wanted a new career that would allow her to give back to her community, and thought policing was the best choice, but a timely conversation sent her down a different path.

“A couple friends of mine are police officers; they said, ‘Why serve your city when you can serve your country?’”

That question resonated. Not long after, she began the Canadian Navy (RCN) recruitment process, and soon found herself on her first posting with HMCS Toronto.  

Having created a social media group chat with her family to stay in touch while she was at sea, it quickly became clear to those back home that S1 Cleveland loved sailing with the Navy. She posted videos and pictures throughout her deployment and those images captured the imagination of her brother.

Spurred by his sister’s infectious enthusiasm, S3 Cleveland decided that he too would pursue an RCN career. His recruitment took longer than his sister’s as he had challenges to overcome. He says he lost 60lbs, got a GED and got his finances in order before joining. With his training complete, he’s now sailing on his first six-month deployment. 

S3 Cleveland says that joining the Navy has been worthwhile and the experience has lived up to his expectations.

“There’s a lot of hard days, but we get to travel the world and we get to serve our country. That outweighs everything.”

It was no accident that the siblings ended up together on HMCS Montréal. S1 Cleveland made it known that she would love the opportunity to deploy with her brother, and the lobbying ultimately paid off. 

Not only did she successfully get S3 Cleveland aboard, but the pair also now work together daily, with S1 Cleveland as a Naval Electronics Sensor Operator (NESOP) and her brother as a Sonar Operator.

“I’m on the port side of the operation room, he’s on the starboard side, we’re both operators,” she said.

Both siblings expressed excitement for the deployment. They said that they’re looking forward to working side by side, supporting each other and exploring foreign ports together.

“It’s hard to miss home when you have home with you,” S1 Cleveland said. 

Waiting for the siblings to return in the fall is S1 Cleveland’s youngest son, S3 Brody Jennings, who she also convinced to join the RCN. He’s currently serving ashore in Halifax. As a further testament to her knack for persuasion, S1 Cleveland’s eldest son Brendan Cleveland is currently going through the Navy recruitment process. 

“We are a very proud military family.”