REGULUS – Sailing with the French Navy
Navy News / November 14, 2016
By Sub-Lieutenant Jérémie Héon-Miousse
Under the umbrella of the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) REGULUS exchange program, junior officers are given the opportunity to go to sea to train with partner navies during periods of reduced sailing. Canadian sailors hone their skills and gain valuable international experience while working on board foreign vessels, strengthening the RCN’s core competencies. I was offered this opportunity on my very first day on board Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Montréal.
On July 3, 2016, I departed Halifax for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to join French Ship (FS) Prairial of the Marine Nationale for Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016. Set to sail on July 11 for 26 days, including a transit to French Polynesia, I was attached to FS Prairial a week in advance to get accustomed to the French ship and crew.
Met by a Prairial officer upon arrival at Honolulu airport, I was soon introduced to the ship’s chain of command. I then had my first meal on board, in the company of Commander Alexis Huberdeau, the Captain of the ship. During my first moment on board, I knew that the following weeks would be exceptional. Crew members and officers were welcoming, the food was amazing, and the overall ambiance on board was very positive.
I would also soon realize the amount of international cooperation that would take place in the following weeks, as 26 nations took part in the exercise. Prairial welcomed members of the German and American navies on board. I had many opportunities to interact on a daily basis with members of several different countries, which allowed me to build strong personal and professional relationships. It was also an enriching experience for the crew of Prairial to have English-speaking personnel on board, as they were able to practise their second language. In fact, English lessons given by myself and the two Americans embarked would become part of the ship’s daily routine.
On July 11, Prairial departed Pearl Harbor to join a Combined Task Force composed of 10 warships from the Chinese, Indonesian, American and French navies. The group was going to focus on maritime interdiction operations, but would execute several other evolutions such as tactical manoeuvres, search and rescue exercises, and surface firing exercises.
I realized that my maritime surface and sub-surface (MARS) training had prepared me to actively take part in all of the evolutions, and it was an enriching experience to conduct real replenishment-at-sea and helicopter operations. Firefighting exercises, man overboard drills and steering gear breakdown exercises would also be part of the ship’s daily routine. I took part in these exercises acting as Officer of the Watch, proud to have received Cdr Huberdeau’s confidence. He gave me a place in the watch rotation and allowed me to participate in all evolutions.
On July 28, Prairial detached from RIMPAC and began an eight-day transit, crossing the equator, toward Papeete in French Polynesia. When crossing the equator, a special ceremony took place, and members like me, who were crossing the line for the first time, were baptised by Neptune. The content of the ceremony is a secret, but I can say that crossing the equator was a challenging task, and great for esprit de corps!
On August 5, Prairial arrived in Papeete and the crew began preparations for an upcoming change of command ceremony. I was invited to take part in the event – the perfect conclusion to an amazing journey – and it showed me how strong the cooperation between our countries is.
I would recommend all MARS officers take part in the REGULUS program. It was an enriching experience professionally, and I have only good memories about the whole exchange.