HMCS Calgary sitting in dock at her home port of CFB Esquimalt.

HMCS Calgary sitting in dock at her home port of CFB Esquimalt.

HMCS Calgary celebrates 20 years with tour at sea

One of Canada's most prolific and advanced naval ships takes the public for a historic ride.

What do we automatically think when we see a navy ship? One ship, one entity — but when we take a closer look at the men and women who keep these floating fortresses chugging along…  they become much more than that.

Media and guests certainly noticed that rather quickly last week, just as everyone gathered on the deck of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Calgary to celebrate the frigate’s 20th anniversary along with her crew.

And it wasn’t just a meet-and-greet and go home kind of thing, no,no — Calgary’s crew had a whole roster of fun stuff lined up for the day — from a demonstration of what she can do out at sea, to a delicious lunch in the ship’s eating quarters/bar/lounge, to a full-on demonstration by a Royal Canadian Navy CH-124 Sea King helicopter. Among the guests was city of Calgary Mayor Naheed Kurban Nenshi, along with several fellow Albertans.

After gaining full speed towards the Juan the Fuca Strait, an announcement came in that the ship would begin its first set of handling demonstrations; the first of which involved turning around at high speed in the event of a man overboard situation — a feat which seems impossible at first, considering the Halifax-class frigate’s modest 4,000-plus tonnage. Some would even say she handles better than some cars do. But ever so gracefully, the Calgary tilted to its side, turned around and came to the rescue of the “man overboard” doll in distress.

More impressively, the whole operation took a total of four minutes – from the moment the supposed person fell in the water, to the point of which they were plucked out of it.

It’s not magic, or science-fiction, or some special act; it’s the result of pure, day-to-day training, according to Sub-Lieutenant Greg Menzies, media spokesperson for CF.

“There’s a lot of hard training that goes into anything we do here; for us every day, and every thing is a drill; we don’t even refer to a ‘fire rescue crew’ on board, because everyone here becomes a firefighter in an emergency event,” Menzies said, adding that the preparation time needed for a single mission extends into thousands of sweat-filled hours for many of the men and women who serve.

And no doubt, there’s a lot of pride that goes into being aboard such a ship — though Calgary dates back to 1995, her onboard hardware and software is all new, thanks to a recent refit in October 2014. Upgrades include a new Combat Management System, a new electronic warfare system, upgraded missiles, as well as a new Integrated Platform Management System.

Gary Paulson was Calgary’s first commanding officer and commissioning captain 20 years ago — and even though the last time he set foot on board was 18 years ago, he feels very proud to be back and see all those brave young faces again.

“One of the nicest things is to see the sailors, the men and women of the Calgary and the young Canadians who serve the ship and the country,” he said. “I have a lot of pride in seeing that today – they seem the same as they were 20 years ago when I was at sea with them.”

When it launched, Calgary was one of the most modern and capable warship in the Royal Canadian Navy at the time. Paulson said it was exciting for all the Canadian sailors to get on a capable ship with modern technology and weapon systems. He also added that what made it really special was the city of Calgary and the support of its residents – the same support which continues to this day.

For others in the Royal Canadian Navy though, Calgary is a dream come true; and a way of life never before imagined.

Meet Sub-Lieutenant Ellie Aminaie – formerly a graphic designer in Toronto for 10 years, she proudly serves as Calgary’s bridge watch keeper — a job she didn’t exactly plan for, but absolutely loves.

“I got tired of a 9 to 5 desk job, wanted something with a lot more adventure,” Slt. Aminaie said, who’s been with the Canadian Forces for five years — she’s been on HMCS Calgary for two years now.

“It’s pretty cool. When you first get recruited and you’re told you’re going to drive a ship, it all feels kinda surreal, like really? I’m going to drive a war ship around?’,” chuckled Aminaie. She added that it feels pretty good to be a woman in a high-ranking position.

“We don’t have enough women in command positions, but we’re starting to have more and more women getting involved driving ships, which is great,” she said.

To date, Aminaie has been as far south as Manzanillo, Mexico, and as far west as Hawaii – she has also sailed nearly 20,000 miles and accumulated a total of 450 days spent at sea. She noted that for every 5,000 miles you get a tattoo of a swallow – and if you sail for 365 days, you earn a sea service insignia –  top (gold) is 1,000 days.

With the demonstrations over and nearly every nook and cranny explored by curious guests and media, Calgary set off back to her home port in CFB Esquimalt, with the same speed and grace she had nearly six hours prior — albeit this time, with a bittersweet reminder of the men and women who serve this country for the greater good.

 

Just Posted

Elaine Kirwin in her Expedia Cruises office talks about the future of travel. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Sidney travel agency charts course through pandemic

Owner of Expedia Cruises in Sidney expects smooth sailing ahead once travel restrictions lift

Oak Bay Rotary Club member Lorna Curtis takes over as District Governor of Rotary District 5020 on July 1. (Courtesy Lorna Curtis)
Former Oak Bay recreation director goes international with Rotary

Lorna Curtis takes over as district governor on July 1

Deep Cove Elementary School principal Shelley Hardcastle (right) and vice-principal Mary Kaercher help to restock Reay Creek with fish – in this case, coho fry – after a recent bleach spill killed hundreds of fish. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich’s Deep Cove Elementary School helps to restock Sidney’s Reay Creek

Restocking followed bleach spill that killed hundreds of fish in creek

A new report pegs the annual cost of hiring a third party to monitor use of pickleball courts in North Saanich at $12,000. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich could end up hiring third party to monitor pickleball courts

Other options up for consideration include use of cameras and timed locks

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read