Out of Africa: sailor proud to give back
By Darlene Blakeley,
Senior Editor and Writer, Navy Public Affairs
From his home in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Master Seaman Héris Lokombe dreamed of joining the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).
Now a Master Seaman in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), he takes great pride in being the driver for RAdm Craig Baines, Commander Maritime Forces Atlantic and Joint Task Force Atlantic.
It’s been a long road from Africa to the full life he leads today in Halifax with his wife and four children.
“It’s really a long story but to make it short, it was a dream,” MS Lokombe says. “When I was young, living in Africa, it was my dream to live in Canada and work for the CAF. Its reputation was peacekeeping during the year 1990, and this was the basis of my motivation.”
But he also credits Canada with saving his life.
“After six months in prison in Zimbabwe, the Canadian Embassy came to my rescue, took me out prison and brought me to Canada,” he says. “For me, I’m just giving back a little bit of what I received. I am proud to wear the uniform of the Canadian Armed Forces.”
MS Lokombe immigrated to Canada in 2001 and lived in Québec City where he was an active member of the African community. From 2002 to 2011, he worked as an exploration technician in the mining sector. He joined the RCN in 2011 and was posted to Halifax the following year.
MS Lokombe says a highlight of his career was being nominated for the RCN Heroes Award in 2016.
“That was one of the best moments of my career and my life; I will always remember that,” he says.
But he adds it was equally rewarding when he was asked by RAdm Baines to work for him.
“Another highlight of my career was being appointed by RAdm Baines to work for him as a driver when he was a Commodore, and to continue with him when he was promoted Rear-Admiral.”
MS Lokombe is deeply committed to community collaboration, and this has led him to a number of volunteer positions and community leadership roles. He is an active member of Congolese Community of Nova Scotia, as well as a volunteer with the Dartmouth Destroyers football team, where his two sons play.
“I also remain active in Democratic Republic of the Congo communities across Québec and in Montréal, and talk to other immigrants about my experiences with CAF,” he says.
French is his first language, and along with English, he speaks three Congolese languages.
In November 2017, he was selected as one of the top 25 immigrants in the Maritimes by My Halifax Experience, an organization that tells the stories of new immigrants who have found success in Halifax.
Outside his work with the RCN, MS Lokombe likes to fish and cook. He also enjoys sharing his Congolese traditional dance.