NAVAL WARFARE OFFICER
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
LIEUTENANT NAVY STEPHANIE BENGLE: I’m Lieutenant Navy Stephanie Bengle from Oakville, Ontario and I’m a Naval Warfare Officer serving onboard HMCS Halifax.
Naval Warfare Officers, or NWOs, sail all over the world in support of Canada’s naval priorities, including multi-national exercises and deployments; and sovereignty patrols here in Canadian waters. They’re part of a high-performance team, tasked with all aspects of the day-to-day running of the ship, from navigation and seamanship, to above-water and under-water warfare, information management, and communications. They’re also in charge of the ship’s boarding party and dive team. In all of these roles they get the opportunity to sail the world, drive the ship or submarine, fire weapons and work with other nations.
BENGLE: When a Canadian Forces vessel is deployed, it will take part in different activities such as anti-terrorism patrols or anti-piracy patrols. And the big thing that we want to do there is establish the Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Canadian Navy as a dominant force. And we will do things such as patrols of those oceans while working with other navies to show that we have a presence.
Being a Naval Warfare Officer means getting to see many parts of the world – be it sailing in the Caribbean, the Arctic, the North Atlantic, or the Mediterranean. Canada’s Navy has operations that span the globe.
But it’s not just about sailing… being a crewmember means becoming part of the Navy family, working together as a team to accomplish the mission at sea.
And the chance to have control of a ship could be the chance of a lifetime.
BENGLE: One of the neat things that we do is we’ll bring people onboard to show how fast the ship can go from completely dead in the water to our full speed. And that’s a really cool thing, if you’re up there as a Naval Warfare Officer driving that, you’ll feel the ship turn and move. They like to say, “drive it like you stole it.” So it’s definitely cool that aspect of being a Naval Warfare Officer.
After completing their preliminary training, Naval Warfare Officers are posted to an operational ship either in Halifax, Nova Scotia or just outside Victoria, B.C., where they spend the next two years. Officers immediately begin their practical training that leads to two qualifications. Alongside, they work towards an Officer of the Day qualification. That’s where the captain trusts them to look after the ship when it’s alongside in port. While at sea, NWOs earn their Bridge Watchkeeping Certificate, which allows them to be put in charge of the ship while it’s sailing.
BENGLE: You definitely have to be quick-witted and sharp to do this job and you have to be willing to take in a lot of information at once, process it and then make the right decision. There’s a lot of times where something will quickly change and you have to adapt and you have to be able to inform the captain of what we’re doing and it does involve a lot of quick thinking.
Leadership and teamwork are two of the core skills for Naval Warfare Officers. It’s a challenging job with many growth opportunities, right up to being in command of the ship. In fact, all ship and submarine captains in the Royal Canadian Navy are Naval Warfare Officers.
BENGLE: It teaches you a lot about how to be strong in difficult situations. You face some high-tempo, high-stress situations where you have to learn to adapt and overcome and I think when you first start out, you see yourself pass each obstacle and then get to the other side and you turn around and are pretty amazed at what you’ve done. So I’d say looking back on who I was when I first joined the Canadian Forces, I’m definitely a lot stronger, I’ve learned to persevere more and I’ve gained a lot from the experience. I think it is a life-changing experience to serve for our country.
A typical day at sea for any officer can include practical experience and team training such as simulated fire, flood, or medical emergencies called damage control, that involve the entire ship’s company. When not on duty, Naval Warfare Officers have time to exercise and relax with colleagues. They eat their meals together, have personal access to internet and email, and communicate regularly with friends and family back home by satellite telephone.
BENGLE: I think there’s a lot of pride in what we do and I definitely feel that on a regular basis, whether I’m in or out of uniform. Being a part of the Navy becomes a part of you and you do carry that everywhere you go, so I definitely say looking back when I was choosing my job and choosing my career, I never thought I’d be here, but I’m very, very thankful that I am.
MARITIME SURFACE AND SUB-SURFACE OFFICER
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES