Naval career comes full circle for new CO of HMCS Moncton
By Ryan Melanson,
For LCdr Russell Hodgson, who took command of HMCS Moncton on August 3, the latest step in his career feels like something that was nearly 20 years in the making.
He was born and raised in Moncton, New Brunswick, and attended school in Pointe du Chene, where the ship was commissioned in 1998 and where he first laid eyes on the newly-launched vessel.
“Being here today, it brings me back to 1998, when I had a chance to visit this ship when I was 18 years old. That’s kind of where the seed was planted for me to join the Navy, and it’s really interesting that it has now come full circle and I’m taking command of this ship,” LCdr Hodgson said, after officially assuming command of the ship during a ceremony on board.
He takes over the job as an extremely busy year for HMCS Moncton is set to continue rolling along. Tasks focusing on maintaining and improving training and qualifications among MCDVs will be coming up quickly, to be followed by an Op CARIBBE deployment, focusing on counter-narcotics and drug-interdiction operations in the Caribbean Sea and the eastern Pacific Ocean.
He notified his new ship’s company that busy times and hard work are ahead, while ensuring the sailors he plans to listen and learn from their experiences as he leads the ship over the next two years. And taking over as CO from LCdr Nicole Robichaud, who earned a stellar reputation for guiding Moncton through more than 120 days at sea in the last year, gives him confidence as he gets underway.
“It’s very evident to me over the last few weeks, as I’ve had the pleasure of walking the decks and introducing myself to the ship’s company, that they’ve had outstanding leadership. It’s going to make my job a lot easier,” LCdr Hodgson said.
In her farewell address during the ceremony, LCdr Robichaud described her time with Moncton as easily being the highlight of her career. The ship deployed to the Arctic in late summer 2016 for seven weeks, visiting a number of communities and working alongside Canadian Hydrographic Services. Upon returning, and expecting to begin preparations for Op CARIBBE, the ship learned it instead had been tapped for the once-in-a-lifetime NEPTUNE TRIDENT deployment to West Africa, where it visited ports in Freetown, Dakar, Monrovia, and elsewhere, while visiting schools and orphanages, volunteering alongside locals, hosting UN ambassadors on board, and conducting training with partner navies and coast guards from West African Nations. Following those unique missions, the ship hosted thousands of guests on board for Canada 150 in Pointe du Chene, and again just weeks ago in Dartmouth during the Tall Ships Festival. It totalled up to 21,000 nautical miles across seven different countries, and more than 8,000 visitors on board during LCdr Robichaud’s time in command.
“Moncton’s a great ship with a phenomenal crew, who are always going to perform for you and who won’t let you down. We proved they can be great ambassadors for the Navy and for Canada,” she said.
Gifts from the crew to LCdr Robichaud included a framed Naval Ensign from the ship alongside the patches from her two major deployments, Op QIMMIQ 2016 and NEPTUNE TRIDENT, as well as a framed collage of photos from the ship’s tour in West Africa.
Capt(N) Jeff Hamilton, Commander 5th Maritime Operations Group, said he was proud to see Moncton continue stretching the limits of the Kingston-class under LCdr Robichaud.
“This crew navigated unknown, poor chartered waters up North and then crossed the Atlantic to head over to the African continent. They showed how versatile and how dynamic the Royal Canadian Navy can be, sending ships that aren’t truly designed for such passage into these theatres, and achieving such awesome outcomes. And we’re going to see more of that from this ship.”