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Lieutenant commander grateful for his ancestors who served before him

For the fourth-generation member of the CAF, remembrance is ‘deeply personal’
Lt.-Cmdr. Jordan Thwaites is currently on a mission in the Indo-Pacific onboard HMCS Vancouver. (Courtesy of CFB Esquimalt)

Lt.-Cmdr. Jordan Thwaites is a fourth-generation member of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) who is stationed out of CFB Esquimalt.

He was born in Halifax to a father who was a warfare officer for more than 35 years. His father was also a lieutenant commander and the commanding officer of HMCS Miramichi and HMCS Chaleur.

“He loved going to work every day,” Thwaites said about his father. “He had incredible stories of sailing around the world, meeting people, and going places that seemed to be the result of almost unlimited good luck. All of this he attributed to having chosen the world’s greatest career. I knew from the time I was fairly young that I wanted to serve in the military and, after university, I decided I would start by trying my luck with the same job that brought so many memories to my father.”

Thwaites joined the CAF in 2007, eventually being posted to HMCS Toronto in Halifax.

“I joined the ship and sailed the next day for work-ups and it was the proverbial ‘drinking from a fire hose’ experience,” said Thwaites. “We had a great group of bridge watch keepers (BWKs) under training at the time and there was certainly a healthy atmosphere of friendly competition and comradery amongst us. I spent my two years under training sailing when and where I could in Toronto and St. John’s sailing first to the Arctic and then to the Caribbean primarily.”

In 2011, after Thwaites completed his professional qualification, he had the opportunity to sail in the Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (MCDVs) Moncton and Goose Bay as a BWK. This was a special experience for Thwaites since at the time, the vessels were still primarily crewed by naval reservists.

“The officers and crews are much smaller and tight-knit compared to the large warships I was used to,” said Thwaites. “I enjoyed a lovely summer around Atlantic Canada and out on the Grand Bank getting to focus on my skills as a mariner.”

Afterward, Thwaites was sent on an exchange with the Royal New Zealand Navy, where he sailed in Wellington and Otago as a BWK and training officer. He had the great fortune of visiting essentially all of New Zealand by land and sea, with his visit culminating in a voyage to Antarctica where he had the chance to drive in Otago in great ice fields and see the most remote continent.

After Thwaites toured around New Zealand, he was selected to be an aide-de-camp for Governor General David Johnson in 2013. His two-year duty at Rideau Hall was a “career highlight,” said Thwaites.

“It has always been a career aspiration of mine to be an adie-de-camp for the governor general. I almost couldn’t believe my luck with my commanding officer at the time recommending me … while at Rideau Hall, I received an incredible education in etiquette, diplomacy, and kindness from the incredible staff who worked there.”

Thwaites, like many, joined the CAF for the adventure – a chance to see the world, experience new things, challenge themselves and do things many don’t get to do in a normal job. Now that he has been a part of the CAF for some time, helping people is the most rewarding part of his job.

“Sometimes that’s a small thing, helping someone with something small that makes their day easier, or a joke or a kind word,” said Thwaites. “Other times it’s helping them out with big things in their career or their life. Once in a while, you get to work with someone over the year or many years and get to see them succeed and come into their own and that’s great. Because we are all always learning something new, there’s ample opportunity.”

For the past 16 years, leaving home has been a normal part of Thwaites’s life.

“For me, life aboard the ship is almost as familiar as life at home,” he said. “You come to know and enjoy your routine in many ways, for me a big part of it is unwinding reading before I go to sleep. I had always been a bachelor, so now with a wife, there are new challenges, but despite the long stints away from home, we do receive large blocks of leave, especially following a deployment where we can focus on uninterrupted quality time together.”

Currently, the lieutenant commander is aboard the Indo-Pacific mission back on HMCS Vancouver. The crew moves frequently between different patrol areas responding to intelligence as it comes in. Thwaites describes it as “extremely dynamic.”

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Thwaites is proud to have grown up with a family that has a proud tradition of service. His retired NWO father wasn’t the only CAF member of the family. His great-grandfather served in the First World War in the infantry from 1914 to 1918. His grandfather took part in the D-Day landings and then in Holland as part of Operation Market Garden as a tank commander.

Before Thwaites even enrolled in the Navy, he worked for Veterans Affairs Canada as a tour guide and caretaker in France at both Beaumont-Hamel, Newfoundland’s national First World War memorial, and Canada’s Vimy Ridge.

“I visited memorials and cemeteries from Normandy to Dieppe and the Somme to Ypres. It’s not nearly as hard to think of their deaths as it is to think of the lives they didn’t get to live or the lives their loved ones had to live without them. For me, remembrance is a deeply personal and spiritual experience and something so deeply a part of my life growing up and my own service now that I don’t remember a time without it,” said Thwaites.

“I’m deeply grateful for all those who have served, those who serve alongside me now, and all those Canadians who work to make our country and the world a better, safer place.”

About the Author: Ella Matte

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