“A First-Class Opportunity.” Haida Sentry gives the public a taste of the Navy’s history and future

August 21, 2023 - Royal Canadian Navy


S1 Hong Pan in front of HMCS Haida.

Alongside in Hamilton, Ontario, sits His Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Haida. It is a relic of the Second World War, the Korean Conflict and the Cold War, and proof of Canada’s longstanding commitment to international service.

Piquing the interest of onlookers and history buffs, the Haida Sentry program now has our Naval Reservists on-site at HMCS Haida, during the summer months, offering tours and answering questions about the ship and the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) participation in historic events.

Over the course of the summer, 16 reservists spent a week at Haida in teams of four, engaging with the public, veterans—one of whom served on Haida—and fellow reservists to learn and teach about the Navy’s history.

“They gained a first-class opportunity to learn about our Naval history,” said Commander (Cdr) Kevin Ng. “They benefited from building some comradeship and esprit de corps with some of the other sailors from across the country they wouldn’t have the chance to meet before.”

Cdr Ng says the unique program provides an opportunity to reservists who might not otherwise have such an immersive experience with the Navy.

“The naval reserve, made up of our Citizen Sailors, is a key part of the Royal Canadian Navy. Their mandate is to connect with communities across Canada who don’t usually get to see the work of the Naval Forces stationed in Halifax and Esquimalt.”

The Haida Sentry program currently targets junior reservists, but with this summer’s success, Cdr Ng hopes the program will become available to more sailors in future years.

The uniqueness of the Haida Sentry program appealed to Sailor 1st Class (S1) Hong Pan from the moment she heard of the opportunity. S1 Pan is stationed in Vancouver at HMCS Discovery but jumped at the opportunity to head to Hamilton.

“When I saw this job posting, I thought ‘I have to put my name there.’ It’s such a great opportunity, it was out of my imagination,” she said. “When I applied, I was thinking I would get to see those museums, war airplane museums and Haida. By the time I got there I was so amazed by the entire program set up.”

Having initially joined the RCN with an interest in Canada’s naval history, S1 Pan was amazed by the activities that were planned for the participating reservists and the public’s appreciation for her service.

Activities included learning about weapons, meeting veterans and visiting museums, working with Parks Canada staff, greeting visitors, and offering tours of the ship. But the Financial Services Administrator was most impressed by her team. She says, to her surprise, she was the most senior sailor in her group, allowing her to take on a leadership role within the group.

“I didn’t want to be a leader, but I had no choice but to become the leader.”

However, the discomfort of this unexpected role didn’t last long. She says her team was all very experienced in deployments and she was impressed by the group dynamic.

“This group is fascinating. We all came from a different unit, but we have similarities in our time management,” she said. “The collaboration was amazing. Once we made a team decision everyone said ‘yeah, I got it,’ and we got it done.”

S1 Pan says connecting with the public and answering questions about her role within the RCN was a highlight of her time with Haida Sentry. Some visitors even showed interest in their children joining the Navy in the future as she told them about her career.

For Cdr Ng, putting reservists on the ship’s site also promoted the new Naval Experience Program (NEP).

“Recruitment is a huge aim of the Haida Sentry program. Given that we have the NEP, it’s a great new opportunity to share with the public,” he said.

The NEP offers naval training and a year of paid service with the RCN to give aspiring sailors the opportunity to explore a career with the Navy.

“Hoping some of those seeds are planted and people will be excited to join up with the Navy in the coming weeks and months and years,” Cdr Ng said.

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