MARINE SYSTEMS ENGINEERING OFFICER
I’m Lieutenant Navy Lance Mooney from Prince George, B.C., a Marine Systems Engineering Officer currently serving at the Damage Control School in Esquimalt.
And I’m Lieutenant Navy Jarett Hunt from Halifax, Nova Scotia. I’m a Marine Systems Engineering Officer currently serving as the assistant head of department on HMCS Ville de Québec.
MOONEY: Marine Systems Engineering Officers lead teams of highly specialized technicians, mechanics, fire fighters and electricians aboard Canadian naval ships and submarines.
Anything that keeps the ship afloat and causes the ship to move through the water falls under the purview of the Engineering Officer and the personnel that work for him in the department.
HUNT: The ship is a small city at sea, so everything that you can imagine you’d have in your home town, in your city, we have to bring with us to sea when we sail, so that’s everything from electrical power generation and distribution. There’s an electrical grid that I have to maintain. There’s all the hotel services like people like to call them in the Navy, everything from fresh hot running water to ensuring that we have air to actuate all the valves and all the systems throughout the ship, natural ventilation, HVAC –
everything you can think of that you’d have in a city.
Our ships are fighting ships and engineering officers play a role in that, too. As damage control officers, we’re responsible for coordinating the control and repair of damage from fires, floods or explosions while maintaining equipment, so that our ship can continue to manoeuvre and fight as necessary.
MOONEY: It’s a huge area of responsibility. You’ll be directly responsible to the Commanding Officer for the engineering department.
HUNT: I’m divisionally responsible for over 55 personnel on the ship. I have the second-largest department on the ship next to the combat department. On a ship of over 250 people, when we sail, there’s a large component of the ship’s daily activities is under my purview as a leader.
MOONEY: You’ve got to be technically minded, resourceful and inventive with the ability to solve problems in highly demanding conditions.
HUNT: You’re not only the engineering officer per se on the ship. I’m also the environmental officer, as well as I’m also the boarding party officer on the ship, so you’re not just focused in on the technical aspects, which are a large part of your job, but you have a variety and a lot of other roles that fill your day up rather rapidly.
MOONEY: When you first get on there, obviously, you’re blown away. It’s like, I’m on a warship, this is very cool. Your first tours and stuff, I mean, your eyes are popping out of your head, learning all these new things. Every once in a while, you just stop and think, I mean, the bunk that you’re sleeping in, that night when you’re on duty, there’s missiles bolted to the deck just above your head.
HUNT: Long gone are the days of steam. We have jet engines that we use to power our ships, both the destroyers and the frigates and that’s really what I studied and really what I wanted to do with my life was to work and maintain those, but do it in a dynamic environment that the Navy offers me where I get to travel around the world and see different cultures and things.
HUNT: After your Basic Officer Training and your Naval Environmental Training in B.C., you’ll start your first Naval Engineering Indoctrination course in Halifax. That lasts about 11 weeks with 7 of those weeks actually aboard a warship.
MOONEY: The next course is called Marine Systems Engineering Applications. It starts in Halifax for about two months and then continues in Portsmouth, England, for another four months. That’s where you begin to apply your knowledge of engineering to specific naval components. You’re learning about all the onboard engineering systems and the technicians who operate them.
HUNT: When you’re done in Portsmouth, you’ll be ready for your first posting to a Canadian warship. You’ll be assigned as a member of the ship’s company sailing out of either Halifax or Esquimalt.
MOONEY: You’ll spend your next year as a junior officer in the Engineering Department. First year is your Phase 6 engineering training. Typically, your ship will have one or two Phase 6 engineering officers training. During that year, you’re getting very vast system knowledge, learning a bit about the administrative side of the job and having some very basic divisional responsibilities.
HUNT: After that, you might have a brief shore posting or you could go directly on to another one-year posting on board a ship – this time as the Assistant Head of the Engineering Department. That’s the job I have right now onboard Ville de Québec. It’s an opportunity to focus more on the leadership and management parts of the job and learn how to run your own engineering department.
MOONEY: The best part about this job is just the diversity of it all. You’re never in any one position too long in which you’ll get bored. If anything, it’s challenging, because you’re always learning something new, trying to find ways around or getting good at each of these new jobs.
HUNT: It’s pretty phenomenal the amount of responsibility that you’re entrusted with at a really young age, especially in the Navy. I mean, I’m given responsibility for a billion-dollar piece of federal property. In the worst-case scenario, I’m responsible for the lives of 215 people on this ship, including my own.
MOONEY: Beyond that, though, the job just opens up into any number of different directions and there’s certainly no shortage of challenges that await me. Our most modern ships are approaching their mid-life refit point. A couple of our older ships are due for replacement and there are projects ongoing to replace them, so there’s no shortage of various engineering jobs, project management jobs and just filling the challenge of keeping the ships that we have going.
HUNT: I’d say the best part of my job is really the people that I work with. It takes a very unique mindset to work in this environment. You’re constantly challenging yourself to do more, you’re constantly challenging yourself with new experiences.
MOONEY: Just being thrown into these various positions, that has really challenged me, helped me become a better person and that, so just from a personal growth standpoint, it’s certainly been a good experience.
HUNT: I would say that my experiences have exceeded my expectations when it comes to the Navy. In the three or four years that I’ve been in the Navy so far, I’ve visited over 20 countries around the world, I’ve spent time off the coast of Africa delivering food to impoverished people in Somalia. I’ve done all kinds of interesting experiences, both in a combat role and in a humanitarian role. And that’s in just a short time.