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1 Feb, 2020 02:26

One puff to blow it all? Canadian Navy sacks two ship commanders after 2nd officer disables smoke alarm to light up

One puff to blow it all? Canadian Navy sacks two ship commanders after 2nd officer disables smoke alarm to light up

A Canadian Navy officer’s career may have just gone up in smoke after he disabled a fire alarm aboard a frigate in order to have a puff, with the sailor removed from his post just months before his ship’s next foreign deployment.

The sudden reshuffling on HMCS 'Calgary' took place as its crew prepares to set sail to the Asia-Pacific in April, seeing both its commander, Jonathan Kouwenberg, and Lieutenant Commander John Forbes dropped from the ship’s roster in the space of a week.

In Forbes’ case, the ship’s executive officer was sacked after he switched off a smoke detector in the wardroom of the 'Calgary,' smoking tobacco and encouraging subordinates to follow his lead. He was found guilty on three counts of misconduct, reprimanded, and fined $3,000.

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Kouwenberg, a 22-year Navy vet who held the reins on the 'Calgary' only since July, was replaced last week by Commander Alex Barlow, a move the Navy said was necessary as the ship’s crew was simply not prepared for its upcoming deployment, despite undergoing sea-readiness drills in recent weeks.

While the Navy said the two reassignments were unrelated, such decisions are highly unusual, especially so close to an overseas deployment, which typically last some six months.

The ship's previous missions in the Asia-Pacific region involved “goodwill visits” to foreign ports, disaster relief, and enforcing United Nations sanctions on North Korea. It is one of five frigates based at Esquimalt, the home port to Canada’s Maritime Forces Pacific.

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