Sailor Profile PO1 Shaunda Lillington: A career in the RCN is like no other

Navy News / November 26, 2020

Petty Officer 1st Class (PO1) Shaunda Lillington, from Isle-Aux-Morts, Nfld., joined the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) 20 years ago and is currently serving in Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) Ville de Québec, which is stationed in Halifax. Wearing the RCN uniform is a family tradition in PO1 Lillington’s family.

“I joined the RCN because growing up, I had seen my older brothers join,” she says. “Watching them come home in their uniforms and talking about the experiences they encountered always caught my attention, so at the age of 18 I decided to join the RCN following in their footsteps.”    

PO1 Lillington is a Naval Communicator – also a family tradition, as both of her brothers are also in the same trade. She brings experience to her essential role as the Senior Naval Communicator (SNC) and the manager of the Naval Communication section on a Canadian Halifax-class warship, having previously served as SNC on board HMCS St. John’s. 

When at sea, a ship’s communication capability is key in communicating with other ships on the ocean and relaying information back to home base, including connecting with family members at home.

Ultimately responsible for this capability, PO1 Lillington supervises, supports and mentors “13 Naval Communicators who work to keep the ship’s communications and IT equipment operational 24/7.”

 “It has given me a sense of pride do be able to manage a section and successfully complete all missions put forth on us thus far,” she says when describing how important her job is to her.

Her department is responsible for: radio-teletype, computer networking, satellite, tactical voice and visual communications, classified and unclassified computer networks, computer-based message processing network, radio communication control systems and cryptographic and satellite equipment in support of high speed data and imagery exchanges.

PO1 Lillington notes that one of the best parts of her job is watching her section grow and gel as a team.

“My team has grown so much during the 75 Anniversary of the Battle of the Scheldt, a Great Lakes deployment, de-storing a ship during COVID, a total crew swap to a new unit, ship readiness training, Op NANOOK 20, and most recently, (acting as) flag ship for JOINT WARRIOR 2020.” 

Just as her team has met and overcome their challenges with determination, PO1 Lillington has done the same with her own for which she turned to her colleges and chain of command for advice and support. 

“The biggest challenge I have faced in my military career has been becoming the SNC in charge of my own section.”

On the home front, the separation from her 10-year-old son while she is at sea weighs heavily on her mind and heart. “My parents have also done a great deal for me, looking after my 10-year-old son in my absence at home while I am at sea.”

Though there are challenges, there are also positives, she says.

“I have stayed in the RCN because of the stability of the lifestyle and how it has and will support me and my child through steady paycheck, healthcare, education benefits, and has also given me a sense of purpose.”  

In addition, PO1 Lillington has had moving experiences such as “marching through the streets of Antwerp (Belgium) during the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of the Scheldt during the Liberation Parade” and teaching the Canadian Forces Aboriginal Entry Program, watching her students “graduate from basic training, which makes me very proud.”

She sees her career choice as amazing, and would advise anyone considering a career in the RCN the same thing.

“The opportunities that are given to you are like no other. By the time I was 22, I had already seen half the world and met so many great people that are still my friends today. The family aspect and camaraderie is like nothing else I have ever experienced.”