By LT Linda Coleman RCN
Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean is routine for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), but for many African nations, it’s a rare occurrence. So for Sub-Lieutenant Lassina Traoré, a member of the Ivory Coast Navy, to spend five weeks sailing in HMCS Summerside to West Africa was a pretty big deal.
“I am most likely the person who has traveled the most nautical miles in my navy,” said SLt Traoré upon conclusion of his time in Summerside. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to sail in a Canadian warship and, most of all, cross the Atlantic Ocean.”
As part of Operation PROJECTION West Africa, the RCN offered spaces for two exchange officers from Africa, one in each of HMCS Kingston and HMCS Summerside. One was SLt Traoré, and the other an exchange officer from the Ghana Navy. SLt Traoré was selected from among all the junior officers of the Ivory Coast Navy to participate in the exchange.
His adventure began in Halifax mid-January, one week prior to the ships’ departure for Op PROJECTION. While there, he met the command teams and crews of both ships, as well as Commodore Craig Skjerpen, Commander Canadian Fleet Atlantic, who welcomed him to the fleet. The junior officers also showed him around the city to experience some traditional Maritime hospitality.
During the deployment, SLt Traoré stood watches and took part in ship evolutions. “He participated in multiple events on board, including our small arms shoot,” said Lieutenant (Navy) Guillaume Desjardins. “When we approached his home country, he provided important advice on navigation and pattern of life in the area. We also had some very interesting conversations with him about his home, politics in his country, and about Canada.”
“It was a great chance for me to gain new experiences during coastal operations,” said SLt Traoré.
“I was fascinated by the operational procedures of the RCN in the Kingston-class ships in the areas of navigation, seamanship, watches and leadership. Those experiences will be very useful in my job.”
Back home, SLt Traoré is the Executive Officer of coastal defence vessel Emergence, the first of three coastal defence vessels that the Ivory Coast Navy received in 2014.
“I will be able to make better suggestions to my superiors about your ship’s architecture, the organization of services, as well as the harmony between crew members which I constantly appreciated,” added SLt Traoré.
SLt Traoré disembarked in his home country when Kingston and Summerside arrived in Abidjan on March 4. Although happy to be home to return to his wife and children, SLt Traoré left on a high note.
“I hope these exchanges will continue to help young officers like me gain new expertise. I will never forget this experience and the crew of HMCS Summerside,” he said.
“SLt Traoré will certainly be missed, but we hope he knows that he has a new family in Canada now – his HMCS Summerside family,” said Lieutenant-Commander Emily Lambert, Commanding Officer of Summerside.
Kingston and Summerside are deployed on Op PROJECTION West Africa until mid-April 2018, engaging with local communities and contributing to regional stability and security.