Shipbourne Air Controller trade set for promotion, pay hike

Pacific Fleet Commander Cmdre David Mazur, second from right, visited HMCS Winnipeg on August 9 to promote sailors posted to Shipbourne Air Controllers billets to the rank of Acting Master Sailor.
By Peter Mallett
The Lookout Staff,

On HMCS Winnipeg’s flight deck on August 9, dressed in their Salt and Peppers (N3B), two Sailors First Class were promoted to the rank of Master Sailor by Cmdre David Mazur, Commander Canadian Fleet Pacific.

While it might seem an ordinary promotion, it was anything but that.

S1 Venkarlo Cornes and S1 Nicholas Sanders, promoted to Acting Master Sailor (MS) in rank and posted to Shipbourne Air Controllers (SAC) billets, are heading off on a six-month deployment with Winnipeg and its embarked Cyclone helicopter this week. Their job and title is a NATO qualification granted to Combat Operators from the naval trades of Naval Combat Information Officer, Naval Electronics Sensor Operator, and Sonar Operator that complete a voluntary course. Once members complete the course and are posted to a SAC billet and employed as an air controller on board an HMC ship, they are promoted to Acting MS.

Qualified Shipbourne Air Controller sailors of Maritime Forces Atlantic are also being promoted.

The fast-track promotion and substantial pay hike are sanctioned by the Navy to address the shortfall of Shipbourne Air Controllers on warships. The goal is to entice other Combat Operators to follow suit and take the additional training.

Combat Operators can request the course once they attain the S1 rank, and have the recommendation from their Commanding Officer and career manager, says CPO2 Warren Beattie, Chief NCIOP with Sea Training Pacific and acting Fleet SAAC. He is a qualified SAC who joined the navy at an entry level position in 2005 and achieved his SAC qualification four years later.

He says the promotion and pay hike are a reward to these sailors for doing additional stressful and highly skilled work.

“It is an effort to bolster the low numbers on board our ships with the intent to make the SAC billets more attractive to our Combat Operators in that they will be promoted ahead of their peers to the rank of Acting Master Sailor,” he says.

The three months coursing is very intensive, he adds. The job itself is similar to a regular air traffic controller, but SAC’s have the added responsibility and pressure of providing tactical or radar control when pilots and their air crews are not capable of detecting threats.

The promotion to the MS ranks comes with an estimated $3,000 a year pay increase.