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This article was published 1/10/2017 (263 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Naval reserve sailors with HMCS Chippawa were out on the Red River Sunday as the crew of Winnipeg’s naval reserve division practised small-boat operations and diving to familiarize themselves with the river’s swift currents and low underwater visibility.
Commanding officer Lt.-Cmdr. Colin Stewart said it’s unusual for the Navy to deploy in the river, but it has happened — the last time was during the Red River flood of 1997, when Navy divers were used to inspect submerged bridge supports.
Sunday’s exercise was also about community outreach, Stewart said.
"The biggest thing for the reserves is letting the public know what we do," he said.
"Often, my younger sailors, their classmates will be like, ‘Well, what did you do this weekend?’ It kind of floors them when they go, ‘Well, I got on a plane, flew to Victoria and did firefighting refresher training.’ That’s not something the typical university student’s going to do on the weekend."
Able Seaman Alex Fawcett, a 22-year-old reservist who serves as a boatswain, piloted a Zodiac on the Red River during Sunday’s exercises. He joined the naval reserves in 2013, and is serving while he studies at the University of Winnipeg.
Fawcett said he plans to stay on with the naval reserve after he graduates.
"It’s all very flexible, and that’s what I enjoy perhaps the most about the naval reserve," he said.
Also present Sunday was Lt.-Col. Denis Roy, a liaison officer with the Canadian Forces Liaison Council. The council works to educate employers and educational institutions about how to support reservists, mainly by accommodating their need for time off to train or deploy.
"So if someone’s got to go away for two months to fight a forest fire, we like to work with the employer to come at some sort of arrangement (so) that it’s not detrimental to the individual in terms of their career," Roy said.
Stephen Traynor, regional director general for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), was in attendance to learn more about reservists. One of his staffers recently started as a reservist with HMCS Chippawa.
"I’ve had experience with the military before, but not really the reservists," Traynor said.
Observing Sunday’s exercises, Traynor said, was a good opportunity to see how new reservists are trained and how employers such as INAC can support employees who moonlight as reservists.
"That was part of the discussion today, for us as employers to understand what some of those accommodations could be, and to understand why they’re important," Traynor said.
Updated on Monday, October 2, 2017 at 6:52 AM CDT: Minor corrections