Twin sisters follow similar paths through RCN career
By Ryan Melanson,
If you come to HMC Dockyard in Halifax looking for a naval officer named Lt(N) Murray, you’re going to need to be very specific. Even if you know she’s the Executive Officer of a Kingston-class ship, you’ll still need more details.
That’s because Lt(N) Andrea Murray, XO of HMCS Kingston, and Lt(N) Stephenie Murray, XO of HMCS Glace Bay, are twin sisters, which is often news even to their dockyard colleagues. The two aren’t identical twins, but the similarities while in uniform are close enough to create some confusion.
“There’s a harbour pilot we’ve been working with for a decade who just recently realized we weren’t the same person, so we had to let him know. That happens all the time. We also get mistaken for each other on a daily basis,” said Andrea Murray.
The two sisters have been members of the RCN since 2005, and starting with Basic Training, which they completed together, their careers have progressed in lockstep with each other.
“We’ve actually done basically all our positions at the same time. We were Operations Officers together, we were Deck Officers, and now we’re both XOs,” Andrea said.
Her sister added that growing up, their parents worked hard to ensure they led independent lives, enrolling the sisters in different classes at school or signing up them up for different sports teams and activities.
“And now here we are doing the same job, in the same place, in the same uniform,” she joked.
The Murrays come from a family with lots of military service history, iand spent most of their childhood and high school years near 17 Wing Winnipeg. Like so many military children before them, they were adamantly against joining the CAF as they grew up, but once their dad, a recruiter in the RCAF, convinced them to give the Naval Reserve a try, things quickly changed.
“We ended up really enjoying it,” Stephenie said.
“We made great friends right from the start at Basic, and then we started sailing and the Navy kept taking us to new and exciting places, so we never left,” her sister added.
So far, that list of places includes sailing to Bahrain, West Africa, Hawaii, up and down the Eastern Seaboard, Alaska, Canada’s North, and more.
“The Navy’s taken me to places I never even knew I wanted to go,” Andrea said, recalling the serene beauty of the Arctic in particular.
“That’s been one of the most exciting aspects.”
The sisters have also both just transferred to the Regular Force after more than a decade as Naval Reservists, following the lead of many in the MCDV community who’ve made the switch recently as part of the Navy’s “Big Idea” initiative to expedite the transition of experienced Reserve sailors.
“After 10 years of loving the job, it seemed like the right time,” Andrea said, mentioning the extra opportunities for Reg Force members and doors that could be opened as their careers continue.
But the immediate next career step, at least for Andrea, is a deployment to West Africa, which will see Kingston and Summerside participate in the U.S.-led Obengame Express exercise while also visiting communities and training with the Navies and Coast Guards of different countries in the region.
The sisters may be splitting up for three months, but with Stephenie having completed a similar deployment in 2017, lots of tips and pieces of advice were shared during the run-up to the ships’ departure on January 26. It also helped to have a sister nearby during the hectic pre-deployment period, like recently when crates of food arrived at Kingston at a moment when free hands were lacking.
“The next thing I know, Stephenie’s people were all on board loading things into our fridge, which was a lifesaver,” Andrea said.
“It’s been huge for us to have that person nearby that you can go to for some help or support.”
They’re not entirely opposed to the idea of eventually being posted to separate coasts or having their careers move in different directions, and say it’s more by chance than design that their progression has been so closely aligned thus far. That being said, both agree that having the sibling connection has enriched their first decade of service, whether it’s playing practical jokes on shipmates, using DWAN email to keep in touch while at sea, or just sharing the day-to-day challenges that come with being a young officer.
With all the support, however, also comes the regular squabbles and bits of sibling rivalry.
“We can certainly drive each others nuts. I call her my best friend and my worst enemy,” Andrea said with a laugh.
“And I can’t wait until I get Captain of a ship before she does,”