Members of HMCS St John’s sail aboard ALMIRANTE JUAN DE BORBON

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Article / March 1, 2017

By: Lieutenant (Navy) Emily Anglin, HMCS St. John’s Unit Public Affairs Representative

As most sailors will tell you, one of the best things about an international deployment is the chance to work with foreign militaries, meet new people, and experience new things. For four lucky crewmembers of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) St John’s, the 22nd of February offered all of those high points and more. They were invited to spend the day sailing aboard the flagship of Task Unit 2 of SNMG2, Spanish air-defence frigate ESPS ALMIRANTE JUAN DE BORBON.

The Royal Canadian Navy calls these visits “cross-pollinations.” They expose crewmembers to how their members of their trade operate in foreign militaries while also allowing them to share their experiences with members of their own ship. As such, St John’s sent as varied a group as possible for the experience. This group included Leading Seaman Tejada, a Marine Systems Engineering technician; Corporal Rios, an Aviation Systems Technician; Petty Officer 2nd Class St-Vincent, a Weapons Engineering Technician; and myself, Lieutenant (Navy) Anglin, a Bridge Watchkeeper and the Unit Public Affairs Representative.

After a thrilling ride over in St John’s Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB), we scaled a five meter ladder to JUAN DE BORBON’s boat deck. There, we were greeted by the ship’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant-Commander Torres. He ensured that everyone was paired off with a guide and invited us to ask as many questions as we liked. “Our ship is yours for the day,” he offered with a warm smile that made us all feel incredibly welcome.

Two of the St John’s crewmembers had the benefit of speaking Spanish, which greatly enhanced their experience onboard. Many of the Spanish sailors also spoke excellent English—a necessity for operations, especially when working with NATO allies. Corporal Rios definitely benefited from his multilingualism, gaining valuable insight into how JUAN DE BORBON integrates an air crew. “Having permanent members of the ship’s company carrying out servicing procedures (such as starts, fueling, and shut-downs) ensures a high level of proficiency in air support servicing tasks, which really stood out for me,” he explained. “The other thing that stood out was their awesome food!”

All of the visitors praised the excellent lunch put on in all three messes, while also agreeing that the visit showed how remarkably similar a foreign navy can be to our own. “I really enjoyed my experience,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class St-Vincent. “Those sailors have a similar lifestyle to us and were very friendly. As a radar tech, I was given a very interesting tour of their equipment, and found them to be as passionate and busy as we are in St John’s.”

Leading Seaman Tejada also found his time aboard exceptional, spending most of it touring the engineering spaces. “As a mechanic I was interested in their equipment, so I followed the roundsman,” he explained. “Their machinery spaces are very organized and clean, and they always made me feel welcome to view their equipment, which was open for maintenance. I also had the opportunity to observe their Action Station drill; they were very efficient and professional.”

Meanwhile, I had the opportunity to experience Actions Stations and a two-ship gunnery exercise from what most would consider the best vantage point: the bridge of JUAN DE BORBON. I stared down at their five-inch gun as it fired multiple rounds at a Hammerhead target deployed from St John’s. It was also unique to watch my own ship manoeuver and fire at the target with the 57mm gun, Close-In Weapons System gun, and .50 calibre machine guns before JUAN DE BORBON’s helicopter engaged and sank the target from the air. After the shoot, their Executive Officer led me to watch the ship’s MH-60 Sea Hawk land on the flight deck.

With that, the too-short day was over, and we met back on the boat deck for a return RHIB ride—this time in the Spanish boat.

The JUAN DE BORBON is truly an exceptional ship, crewed by friendly, hard-working sailors, aviators and marines. They were all happy to show their guests around the ship at a moment’s notice. Having the opportunity to spend the day onboard only served to strengthen the bond between the crew of the key NATO allies. It was an experience that none are likely to forget.

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