New commanding officer for future HMCS Margaret Brooke

From left, Cdr Michelle Tessier, Cmdre Richard Feltham, and Cdr Nicole Robichaud sign documents marking the Change of Command for the future HMCS Margaret Brooke on April 30.

New commanding officer for future HMCS Margaret Brooke

By Joanie Veitch,
Trident Staff

Cdr Nicole Robichaud assumed command of the future HMCS Margaret Brooke on April 30, in a virtual Change of Command ceremony presided over by Cmdre Richard Feltham, Commander Canadian Fleet Atlantic.

Cdr Robichaud, who is originally from Red Deer, Alberta, was Commanding Officer of HMCS Moncton in 2016 and Executive Officer with HMCS Fredericton from 2018 to 2020. She takes over leadership from Cdr Michele Tessier, who grew up in Grand Bank, Newfoundland and Labrador, and was given command of the future Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) in 2017.

Cdr Tessier is retiring from the Royal Canadian Navy.

“It is quite unfortunate that you are not able to be the first Commanding Officer to take Margaret Brooke to sea after the four years you have dedicated to both the ship and crew,” Cdr Robichaud said, directing her remarks to Cdr Tessier. “I will continue to forge ahead and build on the culture that you have created within the Margaret Brooke, one of inclusivity, of positive space, of welcoming arms and a place where people are happy and want to come into work, ”

In her farewell address, Cdr Tessier said she will watch the launch of the future HMCS Margaret Brooke “with a little jealousy and a ton of joy”, adding that Cdr Robichaud is “exactly what this team needs and I know I am leaving them in good hands.”

Cdr Tessier also thanked the ship’s company of HMCS Harry DeWolf, the first of the AOPS to launch, for welcoming her to their shore office when she first arrived in Halifax in 2018, where she joked that she assumed “squatter’s rights” while she tried to figure out what “the Pink Palace”meant.

“Through the past couple of years as Margaret Brooke’s team has come together, you have been integral to our success in preparing for the delivery of the second AOPS, sharing lessons learned, providing tours and training and taking our sailors to sea to earn the platform. Thank you so much.”

Cdr Tessier also received a Gold Service Insignia from Cmdre Feltham at the ceremony, in honour of the more than 1,460 days she has spent at sea during her 25-year career in the Navy.

In an earlier ceremony — held before the latest round of restrictions were put in place in the province, with limited in-person and livestreamed online — CP01 Steve Clark took over the Coxswain position for the future HMCS Margaret Brooke from outgoing CP01 Yves Dumont, who retired from the Navy in January.

In his address to the audience, CPO1 Clark said becoming Coxswain of a ship has been a goal since he was a young sailor and first joined the Navy, noting that he always looked up to his Navy father, also CP01 Clark or “Knobby Senior” who was Coxswain of HMCS Athabaskan before he retired.

Although the future HMCS Margaret Brooke and her crew have faced setbacks that have caused delays to the ship’s schedule over the past few years — including the ongoing Covid pandemic — CP01 Clark said his words of advice to the crew is to continue to respect one another and to always take a positive view.

“You can look for negatives, but why?” he said. “Don’t sweat the stuff you can’t control.