Covered from coast to coast

Royal Canadian Navy commanding officers helping keep Grand Bank tradition alive

Paul Herridge
Published on February 7, 2012
Lieutenant-Commanders (LCdr) Michele Tessier of ‘HMCS Nanaimo’, stationed in Esquimalt (Victoria), British Columbia, and Sid (Bob) Green of ‘HMCS Shawinigan’, posted in Halifax, Nova Scotia, both sat on the Royal Canadian Navy’s Command Boards last month. The two Grand Bank natives used the rare occasion together to snap a photo together on the bridge of the ‘HMCS Shawinigan’ in Halifax, where the selection process to test officers and determine those ready to assume command of warships was held. Photo Submitted
Photo Submitted

Throughout its history, the Town of Grand Bank has been known for its seafaring tradition, especially its captains.

Two natives of the community are continuing that heritage on separate sides of the country.

There are 32 commissioned ships with commanding officers in the Royal Canadian Navy, a dozen of which are Kingston-class maritime coastal defense vessels.

Lieutenant-Commanders (LCdr) Michele Tessier of ‘HMCS Nanaimo', stationed in Esquimalt (Victoria), British Columbia, and Sid (Bob) Green of ‘HMCS Shawinigan' of Halifax, Nova Scotia, are two among those 12. 

LCdr Tessier, a daughter of Jim and Anne Tessier, joined the Naval Reserve at ‘HMCS Cabot' in St. John's in 1996 as a maritime surface/sub-surface (MARS) officer, after first finishing a BA in English as Memorial University.

She then completed her basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Officer Candidate School in Chilliwack, British Columbia, following up with additional MARS training in Victoria, where she was eventually posted to a ship as a watch keeper.

"My maternal grandfather, Capt. Bill Stewart, was a dragger skipper for years, so maybe that's where I get my affinity for the sea. Pop was commonly referred to as ‘skipper' in the family, so now when anyone refers to me as ‘skipper', I get an overwhelming sense of pride and emotion. He passed away in 2002, but I like to think that he watches over me at sea and keeps my ship and crew safe.

"My paternal grandfather, Fred Tessier, was mayor of Grand Bank for more than 30 years, so perhaps that's where I get some of my leadership abilities. My paternal grandmother, Mary Tessier, lost a cousin in the war, and every year we would lay a wreath in his memory at the war memorial. That was something that evoked a sense of both national and family duty.

"Above all, though, I think my parents taught me to be strong, independent and to never give up. They never dissuaded me from doing anything just because I was a girl."

LCdr Green comes from a long line of mariners - his father and grandfather were both fishermen and merchant mariners, who sailed on small fishing schooners out of Grand Bank, sometimes engaged in the fisheries and the foreign trade on larger schooners. Later, his father sailed as a cook on the fleet of draggers operating out of Grand Bank and Fortune. Meanwhile, his mother's father and brothers were all fishermen from Harbour Mille.

LCdr Green was the first of his family to join the Canadian Forces, but was soon followed by eight of his nephews, six of whom are still serving in the military.

Retiring from the regular force in 2005, after a two-decade career with the Navy, which culminated with a three-year stint as the officer in charge of the Maritime Operations Centre in Halifax, he took over as commanding officer of ‘HMSC Glace Bay' in 2008 and immediately embarked on a four-week deployment in Newfoundland, assisting the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with a fisheries patrol. At that time, the ship stopped in Mortier Bay and he invited The Southern Gazette on board for a tour.

In January of 2010, LCdr Green spent 30 days on the ‘USS John Stennis' as liaison officer between two Canadian ships deployed to ‘Operation Hestia', following the deadly earthquake in Haiti, and the United States Navy commander running the operation.

Returning to Halifax, he took over command of ‘HMCS Kingston' until September 2010, when he returned to work onshore, holding down various jobs including Navy outreach, which allowed him to visit several schools in Newfoundland immediately after Hurricane Igor.

In September 2011, LCdr Green assumed command of ‘HMSC Shawinigan', a position he still maintains, although the vessel is in refit and won't resume sailing operations until next year.

"The three commands of the Kingston class vessels have been the highlight of my career and I have enjoyed the success of all my ship's companies who hail from all parts of Canada. They are a great representation of the many different parts of the country.

"In 2009, I had the pleasure of hosting the Minister of National Defense, Peter McKay, onboard while the ship was visiting Pictou, Nova Scotia. I took great pleasure in relating to anyone who would listen how each and everyone of my ship's company members represented the values and greatness of Canada and how they came together as a single entity (on ‘HMSC Glace Bay') to face and meet all challenges and obstacles."

LCdr Tessier is just the third female commanding officer of a warship in the Royal Canadian Navy. She acknowledged she was fortunate there were two women before her, as she did not have to deal with the extra attention that they did.

"I have been asked to speak about being a female CO on a couple of occasions, and I initially was reluctant to do so. I have also been told many times that I am a role model, which I initially struggled with.

"I haven't done anything different than my male counterparts in getting where I am today, and I would be loathe to take focus away from someone else who accomplished the same difficult qualification based on my gender (or age, religion, race or orientation).

"However, when another female looks at you and tells you that you are a role model, or when a parent tells you that they want their daughter to meet you - I guess it's pretty flattering. And, ironically, very unnerving!"