WEAPONS ENGINEERING TECHNICIAN
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
I’m Leading Seaman Brad Chapman from Estevan, Saskatchewan. I’m a Weapons Engineering Technician on HMCS Athabaskan.
And I’m Master Seaman Michael Johnson from Surrey, BC. I’m a Weapons Engineering Technician on HMCS Ottawa.
JOHNSON: The Navy of the future is here today. It’s a technology-intensive, multi-platform fleet that relies on a highly trained team of experts to maintain the systems that seek out the enemy and destroy his ability to fight.
CHAPMAN: The weapons part of our trade includes the storage, transport and loading of some pretty powerful shells, torpedos and missiles.
Well basically, anything that’s related to the combat systems on board a Canadian warship, we’d be in charge of maintaining that equipment, fixing it at short notice and just basically keep it running in good order at all times.
JOHNSON: And there’s everything from doing with the computer system inside the programming that’s in the system, all the way to doing a simple grease routine and making sure that those gears turn and that the system is operational.
CHAPMAN: We’ve got our weapons themselves, our firing systems. We’ve got our radar, sonar equipment, our underwater systems is another portion of our weapons engineering system and as well, communications and that’s what I deal with.
JOHNSON: From the top of the mast to the magazine, you’ll find a full complement of Weapons Engineering Technicians, or W Eng Techs, working aboard every frigate and destroyer in the fleet. We also serve on board submarines.
Our trade is all about teamwork, technical skills and the ability to do your job in all sea states, any time of day or night, under combat conditions.
CHAPMAN: When you can take the stress off the operators by having somebody dedicated solely to the maintenance of that equipment, they can just focus on the task at hand and rely on us to make sure the other part of the job is done.
When we’re out on an anti-piracy, anti-smuggling or sovereignty patrol mission, there’s always a glitch to fix, a new technology to master and a potential new threat just beyond the next wave.
We have to ensure that that equipment is ready and if for some reason it does fail, we have to ensure that it’s up as fast as we possibly can get it that way, so that we’re effective in our mission.
CHAPMAN: The coolest part of the job is just, to be honest with you, is representing your country and being recognized for that. And then there’s the other benefits as well – seeing the world, working with great people and just an overall sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
JOHNSON: We did a really cool thing we call a Sink Ex. There was a ship that they’d stripped it all down and then we went out and just blew it to pieces. You know, it was really neat seeing a lot of firepower, both between us and the American Navy, just blow it apart. It was really cool.
JOHNSON: To become a W Eng Tech, after you complete your basic military training in Quebec and your Naval Environmental Training in Halifax or Esquimalt, B.C., you’ll begin the apprenticeship stage of training at the Naval Engineering School in Halifax.
After five months of intensive training in electronics and hydraulics, you’ll spend two months learning how to maintain some of the equipment that keeps the ship safely navigating the oceans of the world. That’s followed by 30 months at sea where you’ll put in place all the skills you’ve been taught.
About halfway through your apprenticeship training, you’ll rotate through the 5 major specialties where you’ll learn more about the radar, sonar, communications, armament and fire control systems. Within a few years, you’ll be working independently on many systems critical to the ships communications and fighting ability. You’ll then choose one of the five specialties and focus your classroom and hands-on equipment training intensively on that. There’s a lot to learn and some great instructors who really know their stuff.
Within a year of starting your career, you’ll be assigned to your first ship based in either Halifax or Esquimalt.
CHAPMAN: Your first 12 months on board your ship will be spent in on-the-job training working under the supervision of the more senior technicians in the department. During this time, you’ll put your training to the test – loading weapons, repairing communications systems, deck cranes, radars and sonars. You’ll learn what makes the ship’s Integrated Command and Control System tick. Once you’ve completed this stage, you’ll be certified as an Apprentice Weapons Engineering Technician.
Basically, our day at home would be very similar to anybody else’s. We work a Monday to Friday type schedule and we maintain the equipment on a regular basis ordering parts that may be needed for upcoming deployments, things like that, preparing for any given circumstance. When we go to sea, our days change quite a bit because we’re now in a position where our equipment is operating on a 24/7 basis, so we operate like technicians on call and we’re ready for anything that may come up. When we’re at sea, we can run into some hours where we go a little overtime. It can be tiring, but I’ll tell you, at the end of the day, when you’ve been able to accomplish a task or fix a piece of equipment that was in dire need, that accomplishment outweighs any type of fatigue you may have endured for those short couple of hours after a watch.
CHAPMAN: When I compare the life on ship versus other civilian jobs I’ve had, I mean, you go to work, you earn a paycheque, you go home and your days end. Here in the Canadian Navy, you’re working with people that become part of your family when you’re at sea.
JOHNSON: When you get to foreign ports, there’s a lot to be had and it’s usually, you get groups of 15-20 people doing things together, having a great time.
CHAPMAN: Recently, I deployed to Haiti, after the earthquake for disaster relief. Being able to see the people and the impact that we were having in helping those people was just fantastic and I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.
WEAPONS ENGINEERING TECHNICIAN
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES