New naval recruits graduate from East Coast De-Centralized BMQ course

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Navy News / November 18, 2020

By Ryan Melanson

The Royal Canadian Navy’s newest crop of sailors have cleared one of the first milestones of their military careers, graduating from the Atlantic De-centralized Basic Military Qualification (BMQ) course during a ceremony at 12 Wing Shearwater, N.S., on November 4.

“It’s a very solid feeling. I feel very proud of my accomplishments today,” said Sailor 3rd Class (Recruit) (S3(R)) Judah Charles of Toronto, who’ll soon begin training to become a sonar operator.  His family moved to Canada from Trinidad eight years ago, and he said he’s been considering a Canadian Armed Forces career for years. Now 22 years old, the allure of job security and education opportunities, coupled with the chance to serve his country, won him over.

Despite the extra complications of COVID-19 health precautions, experiencing BMQ in the Halifax area, which allowed for ship tours and other Navy-centric activities, added to the excitement, he said. 

“I’ve always wanted to join the Navy and come to the East Coast, so this was perfect for me and I got a real preview of what my future is going to hopefully look like.”

A total of 37 recruits graduated from the East Coast BMQ, with Lieutenant Commander (LCdr) Paul Smith, Acting Commandant of Naval Fleet School (Atlantic), awarding each of them their graduation certificates.

“This is a big day for this group. You can still see the smiles through the masks. They’ve made it through a big step in their training and they’re excited about it,” LCdr Smith said before addressing the graduates.

This was the first of the new De-centralized BMQs to be completed on the East Coast; a similar course was held for naval recruits on the West Coast and wrapped up in late October. The initiative began as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and operational pause that occurred across the CAF beginning in March, with the goal of staying on top of Fleet personnel requirements.

LCdr Smith described this initial run as a success, and added his kudos to the many organizations who began working months ago to ensure the course could be held safely while still delivering the full training serial that would normally be offered to BMQ candidates.

Extensive planning was put in place to keep students, instructors and others safe through the 10-week period, limiting potential COVID-19 exposure as much as possible. Recruits and instructors were initially segregated into groups of 10, wore masks, and weren’t in contact with anyone outside of their small cohort through the first 14 days. Once cleared medically, the entire group was then able to come together as a larger platoon, though outside contact with the students remained restricted through the entire course in order to maintain a safe and healthy training environment. Contingency plans were also in place in the event of a confirmed COVID-19 infection during a course, but this has yet to occur.

“We’ll review everything and look at the details afterward for improvements, but I’m extremely proud of our staff and how they’ve managed this situation. The cohorting model seemed to work very well for us.”

The cohort will now get to take a breath, reunite with friends and family, and reflect on their accomplishments before continuing on to their trades training. S3(R) Tristan Thiessen said he was looking forward to a good cup of coffee and to share his experience with his family.

“The most important thing I’ve learned at BMQ is putting aside individualism and working with others as a team. With teamwork, you can accomplish greater tasks that are larger than yourself,” he said.

“I feel pride to wear the uniform...knowing that I’ve gained a large family I belong to and can rely on.”