CFB Esquimalt commander

Reaching out to the military community

CFB Esquimalt commander navy Capt. Craig Baines broadens his reach to military and civilian personnel in some surprising ways



With about six months left to go in his job as commander of CFB Esquimalt, navy Capt. Craig Baines is focused on checking off a number of items on his to-do list.

“We kind of joke with the other municipalities that we’re the 14th municipality in a sense and I think it’s a good metaphor to say that I’m the mayor of that municipality,” he says. “My responsibilities are very similar, actually.”

Base commanders typically serve for two years, before being assigned to another position elsewhere. Baines hasn’t received his official message yet, telling him when or where his next challenge will be.

The 44-year-old Esquimalt resident heads over to the large desk in his office and taps at his keyboard to access the schedule on his computer.

Baines divides his time between meeting with mayors, base union officials and external organizations such as the United Way of Greater Victoria and the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, among others.

In addition to being in charge of base security – the base was the final destination of the migrant ship MV Sun Sea that arrived carrying hundreds of Tamils in 2010 – and being the ultimate authority in employee disciplinary action, he also regularly meets with a team of officers who lead different departments at the base.

With their input, Baines prioritizes where 1,000 civilian employees are best employed, and how best to spend the base’s $130-million annual budget. He also leads 1,500 military members.

“We’ve been grappling with managing our workforce to the appropriate levels,” he says, adding that though a lot of strategic change is coming, no announcement has been made.

Until then, one of Baines’ priorities is to “live within our means,” despite the challenge that involves, as well as ensuring the well-being of the 1,000 civilians and 1,500 military members – not counting fleet personnel – under his command.

With them in mind, the commander hopes to sign a contract in January for a coffee company to set up shop at Nelles Block in April, where many junior non-commissioned members live.

The creation of a gathering place, which the coffee drinker says he plans to visit daily, is meant to improve quality of life for those working on the Naden side of the base. There is already a canteen at dockyard.

“It’s a meeting place,” Baines says.

His team is also putting the finishing touches on a new online hub, a groundbreaking website believed to be the first of its kind for the Canadian Forces.

The internal communications portal will allow civilian employees and military personnel to post their ideas and feedback on issues and changes at the base.

The website, called “Our Base,” is set to launch the first week of January, and will feature the base commander’s blog, a comic, new initiatives spawned from members’ ideas, a link to the base newspaper and videos, among other features.

Baines is looking forward to reading comments, which can be immediately posted with a name or vetted and eventually posted if sent anonymously.

“A lot of times the people who are actually doing the work have great ideas on how to do that work better,” Baines says. “But because we are in a hierarchical system, it is sometimes difficult for them to get those ideas to the decision makers.”

One of his objectives since his term began in 2010 has been to create a climate in which those ideas are encouraged and put into practice.

“Most of the time we communicate to people,” Baines says. “What we want to do is communicate with people. When you have 2,500 people working for you it’s hard to do that.”

The web portal will allow the commander to explain decisions, such as why staffing positions may be filled in certain units over others, for example.

“Not all those decisions will be supported, not all those decisions will make people happy,” Baines says. “But my belief is if you can provide people with context and let them understand the ‘why’ behind this stuff, it’s much better than trying to impose change without explaining it.”

emccracken@vicnews.com

 

Check out www.vicnews.com to watch a video that accompanies this story.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Helping others, especially those struggling with mental health issues, keeps MOD Pizza owner Jim Hayden cooking. (RIck Stiebel/News Staff)
A 1900s writing box found in Greater Victoria contained ink, photos and a letter addressed to Clara McCaubry dated October 14, 1898. (Photo courtesy Suzanne Hervieux)
Mysterious 1900s writing box finds a home among Saanich Archives

Wooden chest owned by early Saanich resident Clara Isabelle McCaubry

(Black Press Media file photo)
Spooky online class cooks up funds for Greater Victoria Imagination Library

United Way Greater Victoria offers how-to for witch cookies, tasty coffin as fundraiser

Murray Rankin has announced he will seek the nomination for the Oak Bay Gordon Head riding in the 2021 provincial election (which could happen in the fall of 2020). The former Minister of Parliament for the Victoria riding from 2012 to 2019.
(MurrayRankin.com)
New Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Murray Rankin says he will use his federal connections

Rankin said being part of NDP majority government gives him a strong voice

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Most Read