Yes, that is a boat with two machines guns skimming Nelson’s shore.
The Naval Security Team (NST) is running training exercises on Kootenay Lake for four days this week.
Military activity is rare in Nelson. The city is home to the 81 Hampton Gray Royal Canadian Sea Cadet program, but hosting officers and reservists running operations within sight of the marina is a new experience.
Alexis Lambert-Murphy, Sailor First Class, is a boatswain for NST and has been a reservist with the Navy for about nine years. Most of his training occurs on the ocean at CFB Esquimalt in Victoria, so working on a lake in B.C.’s Interior provides new challenges.
“It’s a bit uncharted. I personally have tons of experience in rivers and shallow water from my reservist experience and my own unit from Montreal, but this, with those kinds of boats, it’s actually a whole different kind of beast.”
NST is relatively new within the Royal Canadian Navy. Since 2017, the unit has specialized in port security and escort missions.
Lambert-Murphy said past missions he’s taken part in include escorting a U.S. warship to Esquimalt, and flying to Copenhagen, Denmark, where NST met a Canadian frigate and handled security.
“I like the fact that it’s a small unit. It helps actually with good camaraderie, build good relationships with your coworkers. It’s a bit of a difference compared to the bigger ships because sometimes you just focus on the task at hand. We get to travel, we get to see a lot of Canada, a lot of the world.”
On Kootenay Lake, Lambert-Murphy was piloting relatively small RBS Defenders, which can hit speeds of 40-to-45 knots and include machine gun mounts on the bow and stern (no ammunition was fired during training, and the guns used were just props).
Their training exercises, which started Sunday and end Wednesday, include the use of rental boats that are then surrounded by the Defenders in different formations at high speed.
“The Naval Security Team is very specialized in its unique within the Royal Canadian Navy. I felt like they had those different kinds of boats that I didn’t drive before and this was my perfect opportunity to drive a new platform and actually get some different training than what I’m used to on the warships.”
The trip to Nelson, which followed a visit to Kelowna and similar exercises on Okanagan Lake, is also in part about recruitment. NST is mostly made up of reservists with little to decades of experience among them.
NST’s commanding officer Lt. Navy Robert Newton said the visit was partly a promotion of the Naval Experience Program, which was rolled out in the spring. Trainees commit to one year that includes eight weeks of basic military training, four weeks of naval training, room and board and a base salary of $40,000.
“They get to shadow people like Alex [who] are weapons masters and boat drivers and experts, or they could be following anybody else as far as technicians or engineers. And if they want to stay then we’ll help them stay. If not then they got to try something new.”