RIMPAC blog #4 : Sailors belong on ships, ships belong at sea

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Article / August 5, 2016

By: Sub-lieutenant Jeremy Fraser

Before I even open my eyes, I hear the sound of things falling. Is that what has woken me, or is it the ship rocking just a bit too much? Two belts fasten me to my bunk. On the floor, various objects roll from one side of the sleeping quarters to the other. It’s impossible to know what time it is without a watch, since there are no portholes. There’s a tropical storm in the forecast, which should hit us tomorrow. It’s not quite upon us yet, but it’s sure making the USS San Diego dance on the waves. There was a storm, but it missed us. We avoided it simply by pushing a bit more to the south. 

We now have a sixth person in our sleeping quarters. Since the USS San Diego is jam-packed with sailors and Marines, the empty bunk in our quarters was given to a medical technician. He stayed a few days and then participated in the amphibious deployment that saw a few hundred Marines come out of the San Diego’s belly aboard AAVs. Those are amphibious assault vehicles; they look like your typical armoured personnel carrier, but they float.

I had a discussion with my Canadian colleagues about the value of such an exchange with the US Navy. Some said it would have been better to be deployed aboard an English or Australian ship, since they operate in a very similar way to ours. True, we would have acquired more experience as officers of the watch, but the idea behind RIMPAC is interoperability. In other words, this exercise aims to make our collaboration with our allies more efficient. Moreover, it seems to me that understanding how our most powerful ally’s ships work is of the utmost importance.

I think my participation in RIMPAC has given me a better understanding of the big picture. The fact is that we live in a multipolar world. The next conflicts involving Canada will probably require us to work as part of international alliances. Moreover, Canada’s recent military operations (Afghanistan, Libya and Syria) were carried out in partnership with our allies from NATO. Right now, Canada has troops deployed in Eastern Europe who work with some of our allies. I have come to the conclusion that a critical aspect of our military’s capabilities in moving forward is the ability to operate efficiently with other armed forces despite the cultural and linguistic differences. 

I would like to conclude this article by thanking the USS San Diego’s captain and crew for their warm welcome. Spending time at sea with you was fantastic and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Like the captain said it a few times, “Sailors belong on ships; ships belong at sea.”

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