Like mother, like daughter: Family members deploy together with HMCS Toronto
By Ryan Melanson – Trident
For most Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members, separation from family and loved ones can be one of the most difficult aspects of a long international deployment. For two members of the crew of HMCS Toronto, however, an upcoming sail to Operation REASSURANCE will actually be a bit of a family reunion.
Leading Seaman Melanie Shering, a Naval Combat Information Operator who’s been with Toronto for nearly three years, was recently joined on board by the ship’s new Imagery Technician, Master Corporal Manuela Berger, who also happens to be her mother. The pair departed Halifax along with the rest of the ship’s company on January 19, and will be shipmates for the next six months in the Mediterranean sea.
“I know there are going to be other people crying and missing their family, and I’ll have a piece of mine here with me, so I’m very lucky that way,” MCpl Berger said.
While the family is originally from Ontario, MCpl Berger just recently joined Formation Imaging in Halifax after previously spending six years posted to 4 Wing Cold Lake, and with her daughter posted thousands of kilometres away on the east coast, they haven’t often had a chance to see each other in recent years. She arrived in Halifax in the late fall, and they’ve had some time to catch up, but now that she’s joined the crew of Toronto and gets to see her daughter in action, it’s been hard not to have proud mom moments.
“I’m so proud. Just seeing the way she handles herself so professionally on the ship, and the things I’ve heard from people who work with her, it’s been awesome,” she said.
“She’s also been instrumental in helping me get settled into the Navy way, meet people on the ship and learn little trips and tricks.”
MCpl Berger has served off and on since 1982 in both Reserve and Regular Force roles, while LS Shering was sworn into the CAF in 2013. LS Shering said her inspiration to pursue the Navy route came during a visit to HMCS Montreal while the ship was in Toronto for the Royal Canadian Navy’s annual Great Lakes Deployment.
“I knew I wanted into the Forces, but I really didn’t know which direction I wanted to go in,” she said.
“My mom thought taking me on a warship would turn me off from the Navy, but it actually did the complete opposite. I loved it right from the beginning.”
They say that aside from a bit of friendly teasing, their shipmates and messmates have been fully supportive since MCpl Berger joined the crew, and that the command team, including Commanding Officer Commander Martin Fluet, have remarked on how interesting it is to have the family element on board. It hasn’t been confirmed if they’re the first mother/daughter pair to deploy together on a Canadian warship, but it’s a unique and unlikely scenario regardless.
While they’re certainly looking forward to port visits and other chances to spend time together, they both stressed that the mission comes first. MCpl Berger said she’s excited for the change of scenery and different tasks after spending six years working with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), and LS Shering, who said she enjoys being in the hard sea trade of NCI Op, added she’s most looking forward to working with NATO allies in the Mediterranean.
“We’re going to be working with a lot of different Navies, and I always enjoy that. It’s fun to see how they do things, where the differences are, and find ways that we learn from each other.”
MCpl Berger said she’ll still be missing her other daughter and her son while deployed, and that there may even be a bit of jealousy from those family members who remain on land. LS Shering’s twin sister is also hoping to soon complete her Basic Training and is eyeing an RCAF trade, meaning the CAF element of their family may get larger in the future.
For now, they’ll enjoy the experience of deploying together in support of the NATO mission in the Mediterranean, and any extra family time will be an added bonus.
“This is pretty special, and I’m looking forward to every aspect of it,” MCpl Berger said.
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