Working proudly in the shadows: CFB Esquimalt pays command visit to CFS Masset

CFS Masset
Captain (Navy) Boyd, Chief Petty Officer, 1st class, Spinelli, and Master Warrant Officer Boisvert with Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Masset detachment members. Photo: DND/CAF

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The top end of Haida Gwaii on the northwest coast of Canada is where Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Leitrim Detachment Masset calls home.

In early June 2018, Commander of the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Esquimalt, Captain (Navy) Jason Boyd, and Base Chief Petty Officer, 1st class, Robert Spinelli, visited the Masset site. They presented the detachment a Commander’s Commendation to recognize the small group of dedicated non-commissioned members. Every member of the team was presented with a coin, and the detachment reciprocated with their own Detachment Masset coin.

The citation of the commendation reads:

In recognition of your ongoing efforts directly related to the defence of North America, support to our Allies and enabling the force protection of our deployed Naval Forces. Working in isolation with exceptionally limited resources, behind the scene of a large signal intelligence (SIGINT) organization, your steadfast professionalism, dedication to the maintenance of operationally critical equipment and continued community engagement has been extraordinary.

Image gallery

  • Capt(N) Boyd, CPO1 Spinelli, MWO Boisvert
  • Capt(N) Boyd, CPO1 Spinelli, Cpl Miller
  • CFS Masset

In fact, everything about CFS Masset is extraordinary.

The station is remote and isolated, with little access to services that many Canadians take for granted. In order to travel off the island, most would need to take either a small aircraft or overnight ferry.

There are currently seven detachment members under the leadership of detachment commander, Master Warrant Officer Julien Boisvert, maintaining an aging site originally built for 200 personnel. The site is now supported under agreement by CFB Esquimalt for the majority of its base services and infrastructure support.

Over the years the Masset site has changed quite a bit.

In 1942, the original Naval Radio Station Masset (which later became CFS Masset) was established as a radio relay station for ship-to-shore communications. In 1943, the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 9 Construction Maintenance Unit (CMU) built a landing strip and camp on the beach which were frequently used in support of coastal defence.

In 1944, approximately 35 Special Operators arrived in Haida Gwaii, and began intercepting radio communications and conducting High Frequency Direction Finding (HFDF) on signals around the world.

Between 1967 and 1972, the site was modernized and expanded. The current Operations site was completed in 1969 with 201 married quarters, and barracks for 66 personnel. The site became an essential and vibrant part of the local community.

With the exception of the Operations facility and its antenna array, the site was turned over to the village of Masset in 1997. Unfortunately, little remains of the original military presence.

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