Naval Warfare Officers come together for annual Symposium
By Ryan Melanson,
The pool of Naval Warfare Officers within MARLANT collectively contains years of experience and knowledge from exercises and operations at sea, but with the busy nature of the role, collaborating or building relationships beyond unit and ship colleagues can be difficult.
The Naval Warfare Officer Symposium, an annual gathering held this year on November 20, aims to help combat that. More than 100 NWOs gathered at the CF Maritime Warfare Centre for the day to share experiences and best practices, raise issues related to the job, and to catch up with their colleagues.
“It was essentially a Professional Development day for us, so we were able to gather all the NWOs from the different ships across the Fleet. It gives us a chance to touch base, talk about our jobs, and get some interaction between the junior members of the trade and those farther up the ranks,” said Lt(N) Jordan Hope, who helped organize the event on behalf of host ship HMCS Fredericton and under the direction of CO Cdr Blair Brown.
Because sea time is at a premium for RCN officers, and each short sail, deployment or exercise can bring unique experiences, it’s critical that NWOs share stories of successes or failures at sea and of lessons learned while doing the business, rather than relying only on their own experiences as they progress through their careers, said Capt(N) Andrew Hingston, Deputy Commander of CANFLTLANT.
“Professional curiosity is a necessity for us. We need to constantly be learning from our own experiences, but also from the experiences of others as well, both formally in training, and informally, when we get together in groups like this.”
The group spent time through the day focusing on four main pillars identified as key to the job of a professional NWO – Mariner, Warrior, Manager, and Leader. Capt(N) Hingston spoke on what it means to be a mariner, sharing a story from a near collision at sea earlier in his career, while others including Cdr Travis Blanchett, Cmdre Craig Skjerpen, Commander CANFLTLANT, and RAdm Craig Baines, Commander MARLANT and JTFA, spoke on the other three pillars.
The day led into some socializing and fun during a mess dinner in the Juno Tower Wardroom later that evening, but the group also kept things lighthearted during the Symposium itself, with entertaining debates in the afternoon pitting officers against each other on topics related to life as an NWO.
“Along with focusing on all the different aspects of our job through the day, we wanted to throw something fun in there as well; that’s where the debates came in,” Lt(N) Hope said.
The first debate – Be it resolved that Wi-fi, not flexibility, is the true key to sea power – saw officers from HMCS Fredericton face off against others from Montreal and Toronto, with Cdr Setchell moderating, while the second topic – Be it resolved that Navigation Training is no longer required in the age of Google Maps – saw MOG 5 go back and forth with a team from HMCS Charlottetown, with LCdr Drew Foran doing the officiating.
“These were meant to be entertaining. People prepared well, took it in a good direction, and it ended up being a good laugh for all of us,” Lt(N) Hope added.
RAdm Baines described the Symposium as a very worthwhile event for his officers, and with the Formation’s senior leaders in the room, he encouraged those in attendance to speak frankly, ask difficult questions and make the most of the PD time.
“It’s rare that we’re able to get together and just talk about ourselves and our jobs, so this is a great opportunity for us to hear from our officers. We want to know the concerns. If things are happening on the ships that aren’t working for them, and they think there’s a better way, they can stand up and talk about it.”