PEI Sailor Wins Awards from Two Navies
Alecia Barlow is an award winner, not in one navy, but two. The reservist from western P.E.I. is now holding citations from the Canadian Navy and the Royal Navy in the United Kingdom.
It is almost unheard of for sailors to join the navy of a country other than their own. Barlow, from Wellington, did it while teaching school in England. She wanted to keep up her training, so she applied to join the armed forces. Her commanding officer in Charlottetown said Barlow had to convince the Royal Navy to allow her in. "We don't normally transfer sailors back and forth between navies that easily," said Allan Dale, commanding officer of HMCS Queen Charlotte on P.E.I. "She wanted to do that so much in the Royal Navy they allowed her to do it, and she won the top sailor of her unit that she was training with in the Royal Navy."
Barlow says the main concern was whether her training in Canada would meet the standard of the Royal Navy. She took on extra training to convince the command of HMS President to let her in. "There was a lot of extra practising and a lot of extra work that I had to do in order to be able to participate in the weekends," she says.
Once she was in, Barlow trained alongside members of the Royal Navy, though she did wear her Canadian uniform. She muses that during parades and ceremonies she was often placed with higher ranking officers since ordinary seamen in the U.K. don't wear the dress uniform like Canadian sailors.
Her work with her unit was outstanding. She was recognized as the top sailor in her unit and accepted the award during a parade of sailors at the Tower of London.
"There were other awards that HMS President gave to different sailors for various things. But I managed to get the Bell Memorial Cup trophy award." And that wasn't all. Barlow restarted her training back at HMCS Queen Charlotte after returning from England in 2012. Earlier this fall she was surprised during one of the regular weekly training nights for reservists in Charlottetown.
The Centennial Award is given to the top junior sailor of the Canadian Navy, and is open to reservists and full-time sailors. Commanding officer Dale announced Barlow was the 2014 winner. "I was speechless," said Barlow. She was also honoured in Ottawa this year during Navy Appreciation Day, one of six sailors to receive awards for acts of heroism and exceptional achievement of their duties.
Last year, Barlow also led the Operation Nijmegen 2013 team from HMCS Queen Charlotte. It is the largest marching event in the world, with participants shouldering 13 kilogram packs and marching 40 kilometres for fours every day through the Netherlands.
Despite the mounting awards, Barlow has no intention of abandoning her teaching career for full-time work in the services. She says teaching allows her the flexibility to train on the weekends and in the summer, while spending time in the classroom during the remainder of the year.