Neptune Trident: A rewarding experience for RCN sailors

Lieutenant (Navy) Murray and Leading Seaman Eidukas-Mooney of HMCS Summerside take selfies with the students at the all-girl Saint Joseph's Primary School in Freetown, Sierra Leone during Neptune Trident 17-01 on March 23, 2017. Photo: MCpl Pat Blanchard, Canadian Forces Combat Camera IS03-2017-0005-006

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Canadian sailors deployed on NEPTUNE TRIDENT 17-01, the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN’s) over-arching engagement in West Africa, recently had a unique opportunity to host a group of young Sierra Leone school girls.

For crew members from HMCS Moncton, the highlight of the stop in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, was an event hosted by commanding officer Lieutenant-Commander Nicole Robichaud, in collaboration with Heather Cameron, Canada’s High Commissioner to Ghana and Sierra Leone, and UN Women, the global champion for gender equality.

The event provided more than 20 high school-aged girls from across Sierra Leone with an opportunity to visit HMC Ships Moncton and Summerside. Once onboard, the girls were able to discuss non-traditional roles for women with the crews of both ships, along with three prominent female leaders: Brigadier Kestoria Kabia of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces; Elizabeth Turay, the Assistant Inspector General of the Sierra Leone Police; and Sunkarie Kabba-Kamara, Mayor of Makeni.

“This was a wonderful experience,” said LCdr Robichaud. “Sailors from both Moncton and Summerside thoroughly enjoyed sharing experiences with these young women.”

“We were deeply inspired by their courage and the leadership they have demonstrated at such a young age,” she added. “Today was a unique experience that will help these young women to continue to be a spark for change within their respective communities.”

Both ships crews visited the Aberdeen Municipal School, where sailors read newly donated and locally produced children’s stories with the students. Some sailors even helped build shelves to house the books in the school library.

Able Seaman Josephine Simpson, a boatswain onboard HMCS Moncton, participated in both events and was thrilled by the experience.

“This has really opened my eyes in respect to differences in the world,” she said. “The young people we met were so amazing, so warm and so kind. This is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Moncton slipped and proceeded to sea on March 21, heading off to another port visit in Monrovia, Liberia, while Summerside remained in Freetown fostering relationships with the local community.

Summerside sailors visited children at the Fatima Interim Care Centre, an orphanage in the Cline Town district of Freetown, and the St. Edward’s and St. Joseph’s primary schools.

Thanks to the efforts of Minister for African Nova Scotia Affairs, Tony Ince, community partners, and church and school groups throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality, Summerside was able to donate clothing, books, soccer balls, skipping ropes, and arts and craft supplies to a number of the venues visited by the crew.

HMCS Summerside and a detachment from the RCN’s Maritime Tactical Operations Group (MTOG) also participated in training in support of OBANGAME EXPRESS 17, a U.S.-led, multinational training event aimed at enhancing cooperation, coordination and collaboration between states with an interest in maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.

The MTOG provided mentors to share experiences and help guide members of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), Joint Maritime Committee, and Fisheries Inspection and Boarding Teams through a series of events aimed at honing their skills.

The MTOG worked and guided their RSLAF counterparts through a range of scenarios from compliant visits to more challenging boarding scenarios, and gave members of the RSLAF advice and guidance that could be adapted to the operational realties of Western Africa.

The Canadians also benefited from the training as it helped them gain a better appreciation for some of the challenges of maritime security in the region, while fostering relationships with regional partners and encouraging mutual understanding at sea.

Summerside departed Freetown on March 26, after a busy week of community outreach, relationship building and training.

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