PHO­TOS AND STO­RIES OF 16 MIL­I­TARY WORK­ERS AT THE BASE

Times Colonist - - Front Page - Sto­ries by KATIE DEROSA, P

CFB Esquimalt is the third-largest em­ployer in the cap­i­tal re­gion, home to 6,000 work­ers — 4,000 of them mil­i­tary per­son­nel, most in the navy, but with a sprin­kling of army and air force mem­bers. Their roles on the base are as di­verse as the peo­ple them­selves. As the navy cel­e­brates its 100th an­niver­sary this year, re­porter Katie DeRosa and pho­tog­ra­pher De­bra Brash go be­hind the scenes to find out who does what and why they’ve ded­i­cated their lives to their coun­try.

THE MAYOR (Navy): Capt. Mar­cel Hallé

CFB Esquimalt base com­man­der: Re­spon­si­ble for the 1,500 build­ings and 5,000 hectares of prop­erty that fall un­der CFB Esquimalt’s ju­ris­dic­tion. He also over­sees 1,700 of the 6,000 peo­ple who work on the base. (Mariners posted to a ship re­port to the fleet com­man­der, Com­modore Ron Lloyd. Both Lloyd and Hallé re­port to Rear Ad­mi­ral Tyrone Pile, who is the head of Mar­itime Forces Pa­cific.)

Age: 48

Time in mil­i­tary: 25 years

Time at CFB Esquimalt: Three years “It’s al­most like be­ing re­spon­si­ble for a small town, if you will,” says Capt. Hallé as he walks from the hockey rink to his of­fice — the for­mer be­ing one of his favourite spots on the base. Hallé looks at CFB Esquimalt as its own mu­nic­i­pal­ity and it’s his job to make sure things run smoothly. Even af­ter two years on the job, there are build­ings at HMC Dock­yard and Naden that Hallé has yet to ex­plore. “[Once a week] the base chief and I pick some­place dif­fer­ent on the base and we go through it.” Re­cently, he chose Bick­ford Tower, a four-storey sig­nal tower, now a na­tional her­itage build­ing, which was built in 1901 for $8,288, only to be made ob­so­lete by new technology two years later. “It was like walk­ing back in time.” He knows his build­ings and, like any good mayor, he makes it a pri­or­ity to know his cit­i­zens. “I talk to a lot of peo­ple on the base. I’m out and about as of­ten as I can and I’m heart­ened to hear how happy peo­ple are with re­gards to call­ing CFB Esquimalt their place of work and in that it de­vel­ops a sense of com­mu­nity.”

THE PADRE (Navy): Lt. Marty Keat­ing

Padre: Leads Sun­day mass, wed­dings and fu­ner­als at Christ the Redeemer and St. An­drew’s Church, an in­ter­faith chapel on the base. Goes on de­ploy­ments to pro­vide sup­port to the com­mand­ing of­fi­cer and crew and to coun­sel any­one who needs it.

Age: 52

Time in the mil­i­tary: Four years

Time at CFB Esquimalt: Three years When he’s on a de­ploy­ment, Lt. Keat­ing likes to spend his days do­ing rounds of the ship, look­ing for any­one who needs to talk. “My pref­er­ence is al­ways to start down in the laun­dry which is the low­est part of the ship, and then work my way up along and stop and talk to peo­ple. I spend a lot of time with stew­ards, cooks and stok­ers be­cause those are prob­a­bly the most

THE EYES IN THE SKY (Air force): Sgt. Andy Ger­vais

Air­borne elec­tronic sen­sor op­er­a­tor for the Sea King heli­copter: Op­er­ates the Sea King’s radar, the for­ward-look­ing in­frared at the front of the chop­per and the sonar. Also han­dles any­thing hap­pen­ing out the cargo door — hoist­ing peo­ple down to res­cue some­one, haul­ing loads up to the air­craft and di­rect­ing land­ings on a postage stamp piece of land.

Age: 47

Time in mil­i­tary: 30 years

Time at CFB Esquimalt: Two years It doesn’t get much more ex­cit­ing than this. Dur­ing HMCS Win­nipeg’s an­tipiracy mis­sion in the Gulf of Aden, Sgt. Andy Ger­vais was fly­ing in the Sea King heli­copter look­ing for sus­pected pi­rates. “It’s hard to see the Sea King, sur­pris­ingly,” he says. “The pi­rates can’t hear us. We sneak right up on them.” Hang­ing over Ger­vais’s desk is the large piece of can­vas on which his crew spray painted “Stop” in So­mali and hung it next to the heli­copter’s C-6 ma­chine-gun. It acted as a clever and ef­fec­tive warn­ing to the pirate skiffs edg­ing closer to a mer­chant ves­sel. The chop­per was an “in­cred­i­ble as­set” to the mis­sion, Ger­vais says, fly­ing 400 hours over 3 1/2 months. In a typ­i­cal 30-day pe­riod, the mas­sive Sea King is only al­lowed to fly 100 hours. “We flew 99.7,” Ger­vais says, a dream for some­one who loves to fly. “I had to not fly for a cou­ple of days, it was driv­ing me nuts.” dif­fi­cult trades in the navy. “When I first joined, I thought my job was dif­fi­cult,” he says. But on de­ploy­ment, he watched the stew­ards, the cooks and the stok­ers, whose jobs carry on, or some­times get harder, when the ship pulls into a port and ev­ery­one else gets a break. “The only dif­fer­ence be­tween my­self and the sailor is I’m a non-com­bat­ant and I don’t carry a weapon,” he says, sit­ting in a chapel that’s filled with an orange glow from the multi-coloured stained-glass win­dows. His first de­ploy­ment was aboard HMCS Win­nipeg in the Gulf of Aden. “My job is to not only sup­port to com­mand­ing of­fi­cer but also our great­est as­set which is, of course, our sailors.”

THE LAWYER (Navy):

Lt.-Cmdr. Thomas Flavin

Mil­i­tary chain of com­mand, lawyer: Gives to the le­gal pre­sid­ing ad­vice of­fi­cer to the of a trial mem­ber and ac­cused to pro­tect of the a ser­vice rights of­fence. of a mil­i­tary

Age: 44

Time in mil­i­tary: 23 years

Time at CFB Esquimalt:

Less than a year If you ask Lt.-Cmdr. Flavin, the best place to prac­tise law in Canada is not the big Bay Street cor­po­rate firms. It’s with the Cana­di­ans Forces. Flavin has been on mis­sions in Kabul, on dog sleds in Tuk­tayuk­tuk, in the North­west Territorie­s, and on ships across both oceans. He’s a wel­come well of knowl­edge for com­man­ders on the Cana­dian Forces’ le­gal rights, re­spon­si­bil­ity and ju­ris­dic­tion do­mes­ti­cally and in for­eign coun­tries. Flavin says he goes on de­ploy­ments to pro­vide le­gal ad­vice in case a sailor com­mits a ser­vice of­fence, which can range from be­ing ab­sent with­out leave, to crim­i­nal of­fences such as fraud. “Un­like the out­side world, things like be­ing late for work are a much big­ger prob­lem for the mil­i­tary,” he says. If a sup­ply tech­ni­cian in Afghanista­n is late un­load­ing a C-130 trans­port air­craft that has a strict win­dow of time on the tar­mac, for ex­am­ple, that per­son would cause ma­jor prob­lems. He says the chain of com­mand can con­duct sum­mary tri­als any­where in the world. “They like to have us there on the ground with them. It's a lot eas­ier to ap­pre­ci­ate the con­di­tions the chain of com­mand is deal­ing with if you’re over there.”

THE SEA KING ME­CHANIC (Air force): Mas­ter Cpl. Justin Harper

Avi­a­tion sys­tems tech­ni­cian for the Sea King heli­copter: Han­dles me­chan­i­cal work, en­gine or hy­draulic re­pairs, fuel-de­liv­ery for the Sea King heli­copter

Age: 32

Time in mil­i­tary: Seven years

Time at CFB Esquimalt: Seven years Mas­ter Cpl. Harper is re­spon­si­ble for keep­ing the mas­sive Sea King he­li­copters work­ing smoothly, which is why the pi­lots call him “our go-to guy.” With the Sea Kings need­ing 30 hours of main­te­nance for ev­ery hour in the air, it’s clear Harper’s job is cru­cial. The main­te­nance-to-air time ra­tio, Harper notes, gets taken out of con­text when peo­ple talk about the ag­ing Sea Kings. It doesn’t mean if

THE BOARD­ING PARTY (Navy):

Mas­ter Seaman Chet Horne

In­struc­tor at the fleet school’s naval board­ing op­er­a­tions: Teaches sailors to board ships, be it en­emy craft or ships in dis­tress in do­mes­tic or in­ter­na­tional wa­ters. Demon­strates the safe use of the rope lad­ders and board­ing equip­ment and leads role­pay­ing ex­er­cises to pre­pare board­ing party mem­bers for var­i­ous sce­nar­ios.

Age: 35

Time in mil­i­tary: 17 years

Time at CFB Esquimalt: 10 years Mas­ter Seaman Horne has spent much of the last 10 years board­ing ships in in­ter­na­tional wa­ters, look­ing for pi­rates, weapons, drugs or hu­man smug­gling. His ex­pe­ri­ence has led him to the Pa­cific Fleet School, where he now teaches sailors the ropes of the tense and phys­i­cally de­mand­ing job. Horne has com­pleted sev­eral coun­ter­piracy mis­sions aboard HMCS Pro­tecteur to the Horn of Africa where So­mali pi­rates reg­u­larly try to hold mer­chant ships ran­som. Typ­i­cally, a ship will re­ceive in­tel­li­gence that there are sus­pected pi­rates in the area, so the Cana­dian sailors ra­dio the sus­pect ship and ask ques­tions to test its le­git­i­macy. If the Cana­di­ans grow sus­pi­cious, the board­ing party will climb onto the en­emy skiff and seize any weapons. “With pi­rates, they’re usu­ally not that ag­gres­sive be­cause, if they get caught, it’s ‘OK, turn around and go on your way.’ We can’t do any­thing un­less we catch them in the act,” Horne says, adding that hap­pens rarely. “It’s frus­trat­ing. You just have to work on get­ting good in­tel­li­gence.” the chop­per flies an hour it has to spend the next 30 hours in the hanger, that’s the av­er­age over its life­time. And, he says, some newer air­craft re­quire 20 hours per hour in the air. “Over the last cou­ple of years, the job of the Sea King heli­copter has re­ally ex­panded from pri­mar­ily an anti-sub­ma­rine role to more of a search-and-res­cue role, and fish­eries pa­trols re­con­nais­sance. We’re see­ing a whole bunch of dif­fer­ent task­ings come out. The Sea King is re­ally be­ing used in a multi-faceted role.” Harper says, from a main­te­nance per­spec­tive, it doesn’t mat­ter what role the chop­per is in. “The main­te­nance has to be done. We don’t cut cor­ners. Un­less there’s life and limb in­volved, it’s go­ing to be the same role for us.”

THE OPS ROOM OP­ER­A­TOR (Navy): Lt. Christo­pher Nucci

Com­bat of­fi­cer: Cur­rently posted to HMCS Win­nipeg, he co-or­di­nates the ship’s po­si­tion, over­sees the Sea King heli­copter de­ploy­ment, ar­ranges re­fu­elling, and gives tac­ti­cal ad­vice to the com­mand­ing of­fi­cer on the bridge.

Age: 33

Time in mil­i­tary: 15 years

Time at CFB Esquimalt: 10 years Navy Lt. Christo­pher Nucci — pro­nounced “like Gucci but not as rich,” he quips — em­barked on his first long-term de­ploy­ment in 2009 with HMCS Win­nipeg while the frigate was par­tic­i­pat­ing in NATO’s anti-piracy mis­sion in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of So­ma­lia. Sailors on the six-month tour saw “in­tense ac­tion” just days af­ter ar­riv­ing in the Gulf, Nucci says, and the crew be­came in­te­gral in ward­ing off pi­rates try­ing to hi­jack mer­chant ves­sels. Nucci served as the op­er­a­tions room of­fi­cer. “[The op­er­a­tions room] is the fo­cal point of a lot of in­for­ma­tion flow and de­ci­sion-mak­ing.” Dur­ing the mis­sion he split his time be­tween the “ops room,” a dimly lit con­trol room with more but­tons and screens than one can count, and the bridge, where the com­man­der sits for the best van­tage point of what’s hap­pen­ing on the wa­ter. “My pri­mary po­si­tion is in the op­er­a­tions room but dur­ing the mo­ments of the board­ing, [when a crew is sent out to search the sus­pected pirate’s boat for weapons] I come up to the bridge to help pro­vide that tac­ti­cal ad­vice to the cap­tain, just sort of help out with the rest of the team.”

THE DOC­TOR (Army):

Capt. Daisy Vian­zon

Mil­i­tary Pro­tecteur: doc­tor Pro­vides aboard med­i­cal HMCS treat­ment to sailors posted to the ship, ad­min­is­ters vac­cines, pre­scribes med­i­ca­tions, doles out anti-mo­tion sick­ness pills.

Age: 43

Time in mil­i­tary: 17 years

Time at CFB Esquimalt: Seven years Capt. Vian­zon — just call her Doc — has spent most of her ca­reer work­ing as a mil­i­tary doc­tor. Last year, she was posted to HMCS Pro­tecteur and is adapt­ing to life on a ship. As a sup­port trade worker, Vian­zon says she can move be­tween the army, air force and navy. She has all three uni­forms, in fact. Aboard HMCS Pro­tecteur, Vian­zon deals with myr­iad ail­ments, from the com­mon cold to mo­tion sick­ness to in­juries. “We’ve had peo­ple with bro­ken bones, with big cuts and scrapes. We’ve had peo­ple get de­hy­drated from vom­it­ing; we’ve had drunken sailors.” She says she gives lots of im­mu­niza­tion nee­dles to pre­vent the sailors from spread­ing their cold and flu at sea. Vian­zon says she can re­ally get used to be­ing on a ship with a max­i­mum of 250 pa­tients to treat, un­like be­ing posted to a base where she has to be avail­able for pos­si­bly thou­sands. “It’s less per­sonal. It doesn’t re­ally get you in touch with their work en­vi­ron­ment as much,” she says. “For med­i­cal peo­ple, [be­ing on a ship] is one of the best se­crets in town.”

THE CHEF (Navy): Lead­ing Seaman Russ Gol­bourn

Cook: Cleans and pre­pares food, cook­ing for up to 2,000 peo­ple in Nelles block, the largest din­ing hall on the base. Goes on de­ploy­ments as war­ranted.

Age: 28

Time in the mil­i­tary: Eight

years

Time at CFB Esquimalt: Three

months When Lead­ing Seaman Gol­bourn started as a cook in the mil­i­tary, his culi­nary skills were limited to mac­a­roni and cheese. “Now I'm do­ing stuff like full roast beef din­ners, prime-rib din­ners, cook­ing ro­tis­series,” he says, some­times to feed up to 2,000 peo­ple in one meal. Even though the food might be mass-pro­duced, Gol­bourn says his top pri­or­ity is “mak­ing sure there’s a high qual­ity of food go­ing out, whether it’s the lowli­est pri­vate or­di­nary seaman, a four-ring cap­tain or a colonel.” When on a de­ploy­ment, he has to make five to six meals a day to serve the dif­fer­ent shifts. But it’s those work-in­ten­sive trips to sea when he feels his cook­ing re­ally makes a dif­fer­ence for the crew. “If you're hav­ing a re­ally crummy day and some­body makes your favourite meal, that can just brighten up your whole day. That day that went to hell [you think], ‘What­ever, I've got food that momma made.’ ”

THE SUB­MARINER (Navy): Lt.-Cmdr. Chris El­lis

Com­mand­ing of­fi­cer of HMCS Vic­to­ria: Re­spon­si­ble for over­all op­er­a­tion of the sub­ma­rine, HMCS Vic­to­ria and the safety of its crew. Makes sure the boat and the crew are pre­pared for the mis­sion and en­sures that mis­sion is ex­e­cuted safely.

Age: 41

Time in the mil­i­tary: 23 years

Time at CFB Esquimalt: 13 years “I be­came a sub­mariner be­cause you get a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity at an early age,” says Lt.-Cmdr. El­lis, who rose in the ranks to be­come com­mand­ing of­fi­cer of HMCS Vic­to­ria in 2006. He had been ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the boat since he was posted there in 2004. “Plus, sub­marines are cool.” A sub­ma­rine’s great­est as­set is its stealth, El­lis says. “Be­cause it can op­er­ate un­der­wa­ter un­seen, most ad­ver­saries don’t re­al­ize you’re there. So sur­veil­lance is one of our main tasks.” To be­come a com­man­der, El­lis took an ex­ten­sive, high-pres­sure four-month course on a Dutch sub­ma­rine off Scot­land. One mis­take dur­ing train­ing could have ended his ca­reer, he says. “You’ll spend your whole ca­reer try­ing to work your way up to cap­tain. You’ll have one bad day at sea and you’ll never sail on a sub­ma­rine again.” De­ploy­ments can be par­tic­u­larly tough on a sub­ma­rine, he says. While they’re typ­i­cally de­ployed for only 45 days (much shorter than the frigates, which can be at sea for months), the liv­ing and work­ing quar­ters are ex­tremely cramped with six-foot ceil­ings, nar­row hall­ways and around 50 sub­mariners on board. There are no laun­dry fa­cil­i­ties and show­ers are a rare lux­ury. But he says sub­mariners have one of the navy’s most ex­cit­ing and re­ward­ing jobs. “Ev­ery­one has to know the sub­ma­rine in­side and out. It's a very un­for­giv­ing en­vi­ron­ment if some­thing goes wrong, so ev­ery­one has to be able to re­spond quickly.”

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