Innovative technology brings life onboard a warship to rural Saskatchewan

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"Bravo Zulu" / November 19, 2015

Each week we celebrate the exploits of the exceptional men and women of your Navy from coast to coast.

We mark these outstanding achievements using the traditional naval signal for a job well done...

…Bravo Zulu

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Bravo Zulu to Sub-Lieutenant Jamie Tobin of HMCS Winnipeg, who brought the reality of life onboard a deployed Royal Canadian Navy ship to students and school staff more than 7,000 kilometers away as part of a special Remembrance Day event back here in Canada.

The RCN received the initial request from the Prairie Valley School Division in rural Saskatchewan for a virtual link-up with a ship, as part of the Veterans’ Week speakers program, an annual initiative that matches Canadian Armed Forces speakers with schools and organizations across the country. The school division was looking to connect with sailors on its namesake ship, HMCS Regina. But with Regina currently embedded in its modernization process, HMCS Winnipeg – now deployed on Operation REASSURANCE in Europe – was suggested instead.

SLt Tobin and some technically savvy shipmates onboard Winnipeg made the event happen, despite nearly insurmountable technical challenges involved in mounting a virtual town hall to multiple locations from a deployed warship. While a ship is at sea, its “non-operations focussed” internet connectivity is not robust enough to conduct real-time video teleconferences, so there was no opportunity to test the connection with the school until the ship docked in Lisbon, Portugal.

Once there, the race was on to acquire SIM cards to set up a strong private WiFi network that wouldn’t be shared among all 250 people onboard. With support from the ship’s Hull Tech department, and using a personal cellphone, the helicopter hangar became a private WiFi hotspot with a connection strong enough to send and receive the video and audio feeds with practically no time delay.

Thanks to all of his troubleshooting, SLt Tobin successfully conducted the 15-minute presentation live from HMCS Winnipeg’s berth in Lisbon, Portugal to a very engaged group of kids and teachers at Edenwold School, an elementary school in the village of Edenwold, Saskatchewan – 45 kilometers north of Regina. A second viewing site was connected at the school division’s head office. SLt Tobin then took questions from the students and staff about life onboard Winnipeg, the significance of Remembrance Day and CAF operations.

Hopefully, with the lessons learned in this first experiment, there will be more innovative opportunities for RCN members – at home and abroad – to use technology to reach out and communicate with Canadians all across the country.