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CFB Esquimalt sailor shares snapshot of his life on board HMCS Ottawa

Sailor 1st Class Ryan Black has been deployed to the Indo-Pacific for the last four months
Sailor 1st Class Ryan Black attending to duties on HMCS Ottawa. (Courtesy of the CFB Esquimalt)

Every day’s different for Sailor 1st Class Ryan Black sailing on HMCS Ottawa. Since August, he’s been deployed on a mission to the Indo-Pacific region.

“I like to wake up early and go to the gym, followed by breakfast. We then usually have a team meeting to divide supply-related tasks for the day. Other than that, no day is typically the same,” said Black through email. “The days vary with assigned duty watches, making offshore trips into foreign ports to procure food stocks or parts required for the day-to-day operations of the ship.”

According to Black, HMCS Ottawa’s mission is, “to promote freedom of navigation, strengthen relationships with regional partners as well as contribute to regional security.” While on the mission, Black is a victualler. He’s responsible for the procurement and management of food provisions aboard HMCS Ottawa. “I manage the food supplies, and when in foreign ports or on deployments I make local food purchases in foreign countries.” Black is also a part of the casualty clearing team, responsible for assisting the medical staff.

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The crew on HMCS Ottawa gets a varied meal plan that includes meat, tofu, milk, cheese, bread, bagels, and fresh fruits and vegetables. “What we buy varies from port to port depending on what is available locally,” said Black. “One of the things I always look forward to is the different and interesting fruits and veggies we get in different countries. The fresh fruit we brought on board from Thailand and the Philippines was amazing!”

He said the most rewarding part of his job is problem-solving and resolving issues. “It’s often required that I find solutions to meet the ship’s needs. I’m always satisfied when I’m able to solve an issue, obtain the necessary equipment, or meet a deadline that perhaps seemed impossible to meet,” said Black. “I get great satisfaction from contribution to the overall process.”

Black is the fifth generation of his family to have served in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). His father William Black was a warrant officer, and his mother was Sgt. Lynn Fonger. They have since retired from the CAF, but now he and his younger brother, 2nd Class Chief Petty Officer Blair Black, are serving in the navy.

“My family’s connection to the military played a strong part, along with job security and being able to contribute something back to society. I also enjoy the variety of challenges and new experiences it provides. Being posted to beautiful Vancouver Island doesn’t hurt either,” said Ryan.

The Sailor 1st Class was born in Belleville, Ont. before moving to Ottawa at a young age when his parents were posted there. Ryan first joined the CAF in 2009 and rejoined the navy in 2020. In between, he was also a public servant working for the Department of National Defence.

Ryan’s military career has split between the army and the navy. “During my career, I’ve had the opportunity of representing Canada on international exercises several times, as well as hosting international militaries for exercises, and now deploying to the Indo-Pacific, all of which have allowed me to forge international military connections and friendships,” said Ryan. Two of Ryan’s career highlights were being chosen as an escort for Prince William and his family as they toured Ottawa, and being chosen as last year’s navy representative for the Remembrance Day sentry program. Ryan stood vigil at the National War Memorial in Ottawa during the Nov. 11 ceremony.

One of the hardest parts about being away for Ryan is not seeing his partner Chrystelle Cote and their three dogs. Ryan’s partner isn’t involved in the military, but he said, “As a military spouse it’s hard not to be involved with all the demands it can put on them. She shoulders all the load while I am gone, and absorbs any stresses happening at home so I can focus on my job without worrying about what’s going on there.”

Although Ryan misses his loved ones, he is very proud to be serving his country. “To me, it’s very important that we continue to honour the service and sacrifices of the Canadians that have served before us,” said Ryan.

“Coming from a military family, I am extremely proud of their past contributions and the ethos of public service they passed to me. Seeing the hard work and dedication put in by the sailors on HMCS Ottawa during this deployment has only solidified for me my pride in wearing the uniform and the importance and significance of remembering and honouring history.”

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About the Author: Ella Matte

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