HMCS Calgary sailor completes qualifications at sea

Lifestyle - Life at Sea / July 7, 2020

By Sub-Lieutenant Greg Menzies

It’s not every day a naval warfare officer can complete the Naval Officer Professional Qualification (NOPQ) while at sea.

In fact, in the Royal Canadian Navy’s West Coast fleet it’s quite rare, and that’s why it was a big deal for Sub-Lieutenant (SLt) Jason Wychopen.

The NOPQ board is an exam where a naval warfare officer sits before several senior naval officers who specialize in all aspects of operating a warship at sea. The officer becomes eligible to challenge the board after completing an NOPQ package that contains hundreds of prerequisite signatures, which ensures he or she understands all the inner workings of a warship. This process typically takes two years.

Once the officer has completed the package and is nominated by his or her captain, the officer is given notice that he or she will sit the board. Preparation is usually a few weeks of studying material to prepare for this extensive test.

SLt Wychopen, however, was given one hour’s notice while sailing in Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Calgary.

Calgary is currently carrying out its Directed Sea Readiness Training program while participating in a task group exercise with HMC Ships Regina, Brandon, Whitehorse, Nanaimo and two Orca-Class Patrol Craft Training (PCT) vessels, Cougar and Wolf, off the coast of Vancouver Island. 

“As result of having Sea Training (Pacific) and the Commander Canadian Fleet Pacific and his staff on board Calgary, there was the correct number of assessment personnel to convene a qualification board,” said SLt Wychopen.

The board involves two parts. The first is theoretical, where senior officers ask questions that pertain to officer of the watch work. These are skill-testing questions that ensure the fundamentals of being a naval warfare officer are understood.

The second part is practical, where a naval warfare officer takes part in a simulation or is graded during watches at sea. Scenarios are purposed to confirm the candidate can keep the ship safe in any situation.

“I am happy to have successfully completed my board and now that it’s behind me, I can focus on the next phase of my career,” said SLt Wychopen.

His next decision is to choose one of several director-level qualifications.

“I want to be an underwater warfare officer,” he said. “I find that occupation to be the most interesting of all the options and it goes well with my family naval heritage.”

“Now that I can see the NOPQ board in my rear-view mirror, I’ll continue to look ahead and conquer the next challenge.”