NEW GLASGOW - William Corbett of Canso remembers his first time on a Canadian navy ship when he was a sea cadet.
Lieutenant (Navy) William Corbett, a MARS officer, supervises the launching of the shipâs zodiac on board HMCS Regina during Operation Artemis counter-terrorism and maritime security operations off the coast of Africa on March 12. Cpl. Michael Bastien, MARPAC Imaging Services
âThat little sail on a Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel left an impression on me,â he said. âIt turned me on to the navy.â
Now, a little over a decade after that first sail, Lieutenant (Navy) Corbett is in charge of all aspects of seamanship onboard HMCS Regina, a frigate in the Royal Canadian Navy.
While he grew up in Canso, Corbettâs stepfather Addison Underwood was from New Glasgow.
âI spent a few summers in Pictou County. I did some lobster fishing with my stepdad.â
His enjoyment of life on the seas made it easy for him to choose his career path. After high school, he enrolled in the Royal Military College and completed a bachelorâs degree in business. Some of his classmates were skeptical about a career in the navy.
âThey saw it as a crazy thing to do, but it opened some peopleâs eyes just seeing the possibilities.â
He was posted to Victoria where he learned the basics of being a maritime surface and subsurface (MARS) officer. It was time to put his training to work when he was posted to the supply ship HMCS Protecteur, where heâd serve for 2 1/2 years.
âIt was a great opportunity for the training,â said Corbett of the ship. âBecause of the design of the ship, its steam engine and the fact itâs not as manoeuvrable was a real test for me.â
Protecteur, one of the oldest ships in the Royal Canadian Navy, has been in service since 1968.
While on board, Corbett participated in a three-month trip to South America, stopping in Chile, Peru, Guatemala, Mexico and San Diego in California.
He found out in May 2013 while on course in Halifax that he would be posted to HMCS Regina, one of the navyâs frigates.
Onboard, heâs the seamanship officer for the ship as it continues Canadaâs participation in Operation Artemis, the Canadian Armed Forcesâ current contribution to counter-terrorism and maritime security operations in the Arabian Sea. He was responsible for the shipâs readiness as it prepared for its assignment.
âMy big focus is when weâre leaving, to make sure weâre good to go.â
While onboard, Corbett is responsible for the two zodiacs and a ridged hull inflatable boat (RHIB) and delivering orders and instructions for his department.
âIâm the head of the deck department and subject matter expert for seamanship, replenishment at sea, recovery of boats and when weâre coming in alongside,â he said. âItâs primarily the seamanship side not the the war side.â
Corbett was on call March 31 when the ship intercepted a small fishing boat called a dhow. The boarding team sprang to action and he oversaw the launching of the boats. It was not a drill and no false alarm. The crew seized and destroyed 132 kg of heroin from drug runners.
âItâs what the ship is here to do, we spent months and months of training,â said Corbett. âThe entire ship has been working really hard and having this first drug bust under our belt raises morale.â
He said itâs hard to say if the ship will intercept any more drugs. Nonetheless, the ship will continue to sail around looking for opportunities to board vessels to limit narcotics and protect legitimate shipping.
While Corbett hasnât been back to New Glasgow in quite a while, he still tries to visit his family in Canso. His posting, and fiancĂ©e in Victoria, make the trip east challenging.
âI talk to my fiancĂ©e and parents quite a bit. But along with operation, the paper work never ends,â said Corbett.
While he occasionally gets homesick, he feeling more at home on the sea as time goes on.
âYou get used to it and you keep going with the flow.â