Namgis First Nations students come to visit

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SLt M.X. Déry

MARPAC Public Affairs

Seven students from T’lisalagi’lakw School in Alert Bay visited CFB Esquimalt during a school trip to Greater Victoria.

Commodore Angus Topshee invited members of the Namgis community during Exercise Northern Reach in Port McNeill, when he met with Namgis member George Alfred.

First stop on the tour was Fleet Maintenance Facility, which employs roughly a thousand civilian and military personnel, more than half the entire population of Alert Bay.

Students learned what it takes to maintain the fleet of warships as they followed the yellow lines through the massive shop floor with highly specialized equipment around every corner.

School principal Shane Douglas reminded them to think about the wide range of trades occupations available in B.C.

When the group arrived at the engraving shop, Bruce Alfred received a specially created plaque with the Namgis First Nations logo on it from PO1 Wiggins. Of special note, Alfred also designed the logo.

Once finished with the shore tours, the group moved to a naval platform, the HMCS Nanaimo, where PO2 Gavin Flannigan showed the group around the ship.

“Why are the lights red?” asked one curious student pointing to the red colour florescent lighting.

“At night we turn all the lights off except the red ones and that helps keep our night vision for when we go on the upper decks or the bridge,” replied PO2 Flannigan.

On the bridge, the students were surprised to find the controls for the ship’s propulsion system so small considering their power.

Commander Jason Bergen spoke to the group in his cabin, and fielded questions about how he got to the position of captain of Nanaimo. He explained the hard work it took over 22 years to get where he is today, from the aptitude test at the recruitment centre to commanding the ship during his latest Operation Caribbe deployment, and all the training in-between.

“You hear that,” interjected George Alfred, “you never stop learning.”

Prior to embarking on the bus for the five-hour drive back to Alert Bay, principal Douglas presented Marie Ormiston from Maritime Forces (Pacific Visits and Protocol) and PO2 Flannigan a paddle carved in Alert Bay and signed by the students.

“Thank you very much for making this possible,” said Principal Douglas.

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