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Navy hosts overnight sail with female leaders for International Women's Day (31 photos)

'Due to the nature of the Navy, often our work is done offshore and out of sight,' says commanding officer of HMCS St. John's Peter Sproule about why outreach programs are important

HMCS St. John's hosted 20 female civilians from across the country for an overnight sail in recognition of International Women's Day. 

The experience was part of a national program called Canadian Leaders at Sea, or CLaS, which exposes prominent community members to naval life.

The iniatiatve has been running along the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic coasts of Canada since 2016 in hopes of teaching civilian leaders about day-to-day naval living through a hands on experience. 

Clair Kennedy is a lawyer based out of Toronto and is the civilian co-leader of the most recent RCN Women's Canadian Leaders at Sea program, which was a special edition in honour of International Women's Day. 

Kennedy is a CLaS Alumni, having sailed with the program on HMCS Charlottetown from Iqaluit, NU to Nuuk, Greenland in August 2018. 

"I didn't appreciate the sificitication of our Navy before I had the chance to do the CLaS program the first time and I am learning even more this trip," she says. 

The leaders involved in this program have backgrounds in government, business and academia and were recruited from Ontario, Alberta and Newfounland and Labrador. 

"I hope these women take back what I did and that is new knowledge of the Navy and really admiration and appreciation for what the Navy does because they work very hard and are incredibly skilled," she says. 

Commanding officer of HMCS St. John's Peter Sproule says outreach programs such as CLaS are important in bringing Canadians closer to their military. 

"Due to the nature of the Navy, often our work is done offshore and out of sight," he says. "Having these women on board, they get to experience the Navy and will hopefully go back to their normal jobs and life and be champions of the Navy, or at least speak positivly about what they have seen."

The program includes tours of the entire ship and hands-on participation in many exercises and drills, like firing C8 rifles and 9MM sig sauer hand guns. 

Anne Fitzgerald, chief legal officer for Toronto-based Cineplex Entertainment, was one of the CLaS participants and says the most memorable demonstration for her was a firefighting drill.

"They took us through a fake burning area that we had to navigate through without any vision," she says. "It was a little scary but part of the adventure."

This drill involved guests suiting up in heavy gear needed to fight fire and then walking through a compartment filled with harmless smoke. 

Other notable drills included a high speed ship manoeuvring demonstraion, a 57MM main armament gun firing exercise, and a man overboard demonstration which involved retrieving a dummy named Oscar who was thrown in the sea. 

"It has been an incredible opportunity to be on a warship," Fitzgerald says. "The Navy's hospitality has been extrodinary and they seem very excited to have us here."


Katie Hartai

About the Author: Katie Hartai

In addition to being a reporter for NEWS 95.7 and, Katie is the producer of The Rick Howe Show
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