Rear-Admiral Gilles Couturier knows what it feels like to be in the shoes of Trevor Linden when he became president of the Vancouver Canucks roughly a year ago.
Couturier, an Ottawa-native, was named Commander of the Maritime Forces Pacific at Her Majesty’s Canadian Dockyard in Esquimalt Tuesday.
“Today I feel a bit like Trevor Linden. Like the Canucks, we also made a few planned trades such as a new fleet commander and a new naval reserve commander,” said Couturier, an avid hockey fan. “I believe in team sport, where success is not dependant on the Crosbys or Rocket Richards of the world, but more on teamwork and team spirit.”
As the commander and commander of Joint Task Force Pacific, Couturier is responsible for providing maritime security in the North Pacific region and responsible for all Canadian Armed Forces operations in the province and its western air and maritime approaches as well as the Victoria Search and Rescue region which is made up on the northeastern quadrant of the Pacific Ocean, the Yukon Territory and B.C.
Couturier has had a 32-year-long career with the Navy. He has served in ships on both the west and east coast fleets.
And he already has his sights set on the future, choosing to focus on maintaining the current training program.
“We have all sorts of new ships coming in the Navy and the last thing we want is having that great capability and not making full use of it. With the team, we’ll make sure that the training program that is in place right now delivers the sailors that are ready to operate the ship,” he said.
“The other part of my vision is looking at our naval reserves and make sure there they have some challenges here that they can feel like they are contributing to the overall great institution that is the Royal Canadian Navy.”
Couturier takes the helm from Rear-Admiral Bill Truelove, who will move on as Commander Canadian Defence Liaison Council in Washington D.C., where he’ll continue to build relationships between American and Canadian militaries.
“It’s a great privilege to serve at this level,” said Truelove, who has served as commander for the last three years. “Bit of emotion here today as I hand over, but I do so with full confidence in the entire team and Admiral Couturier coming in behind me, he’s an incredible leader.”
Truelove’s tenure was not without challenges.
In 2013, an American factory-fishing trawler smashed into HMCS Winnipeg in Esquimalt, injuring six civilian maintenance workers and crew.
Later that year, HMCS Algonquin and HMCS Protecteur collided during training exercises en route to Hawaii. No one was hurt but both ships sustained significant damage. In 2014, there was a fire on board the HMCS Protecteur on its way to Pearl Harbour where roughly 20 people suffered minor injuries.
“We’ve had some unexpected challenges along the way, but that comes with command and an organization of this size,” said Truelove.
Over the past month, there has been other changes of command as well. Capt. Jeffery Zwick took over for Commodore Bob Auchterlonie and Commodore David Craig took over for Commodore Marta Mulkins.