Twin sisters follow similar paths through Navy career
By Ryan Melanson, Trident – CFB Halifax
Navy Lieutenants Andrea and Stephenie Murray are twin sisters at the HMC Dockyard in Halifax, which is often news even to their dockyard colleagues.
If you come to HMC Dockyard in Halifax looking for a naval officer named Lt(N) Murray, you’re going to need to be very specific. Even if you know she’s the Executive Officer (XO) of a Kingston-class ship, you’ll still need more details.
Lt(N) Andrea Murray is XO of HMCS Kingston, and Lt(N) Stephenie Murray is XO of HMCS Glace Bay. The two aren’t identical twins, but the similarities while in uniform are close enough to create some confusion.
“There’s a harbour pilot we’ve been working with for a decade who just recently realized we weren’t the same person. We get mistaken for each other on a daily basis,” said Andrea.
The two sisters have been members of the Royal Canadian Navy since 2005. They completed their basic training together, and their careers have progressed in lockstep with each other ever since.
“We’ve actually done all our positions at the same time. We were Operations Officers together, we were Deck Officers, and now we’re both XOs,” Andrea said.
Her sister added that growing up, their parents worked hard to ensure they led independent lives, enrolling the sisters in different classes at school or signing up them up for different sports teams and activities. “And now, here we are doing the same job, in the same place, in the same uniform,” Stephenie joked.
The Murrays come from a family with lots of military service history, spending most of their childhood and high school years near 17 Wing Winnipeg. They were against joining the Canadian Armed Forces as they grew up, but once their dad, a recruiter in the Royal Canadian Air Force, convinced them to give the Naval Reserve a try, things changed quickly.
“We ended up really enjoying it,” Stephenie said. “We made great friends right from the start at basic (training), and the Navy kept taking us to new and exciting places, so we never left,” her sister added.
So far, that list of places includes Bahrain, West Africa, Hawaii, up and down the Eastern Seaboard, Alaska, Canada’s North, and more. “The Navy’s taken me to places I never even knew I wanted to go,” Andrea said, recalling the serene beauty of the Arctic.
The sisters have both just transferred to the Regular Force after more than a decade as Naval Reservists, following the lead of many in the maritime coastal defence vessel community who’ve made the switch recently as part of the Navy’s “Big Idea” initiative to expedite the transition of experienced Reserve sailors. “After 10 years of loving the job, it seemed like the right time,” Andrea said, mentioning the opportunities for Regular Force members.
Andrea’s next career step is a deployment to West Africa, which will see HMCS Kingston and Summerside participate in the U.S.-led Exercise OBENGAME EXPRESS. She will also be visiting communities, and training with the Navies and Coast Guards of different countries in the region.
The sisters may be splitting up for three months, but with Stephenie having completed a similar deployment in 2017, lots of tips were shared before the ships’ departure on January 26. It also helped to have a sister nearby during the hectic pre-deployment period.
Andrea recalled a moment when crates of food arrived at HMCS Kingston and free hands were lacking. “The next thing I know, Stephenie’s people were on board, loading things into our fridge, which was a lifesaver,” she said.
They are not opposed to the idea of having their careers move in different directions. They say it is more by chance than design that their progression has been so closely aligned thus far. Still, both agree that having the sibling connection has enriched their first decade of service, whether it’s playing practical jokes on shipmates, using DWAN email to keep in touch while at sea, or just sharing the day-to-day challenges that come with being a young officer.
With all the support, however, also comes the regular squabbles and bits of sibling rivalry. “We can certainly drive each other nuts. I call her my best friend and my worst enemy,” Andrea said with a laugh.
“And I can’t wait until I get to be Captain of a ship before she does,” she added.
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