Canadian officer first woman to command standing NATO naval group

Canadian officer first woman to command standing NATO naval group

HALIFAX — Commodore Josee Kurtz, a 31-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Navy, says she hopes her historic appointment to lead a NATO fleet inspires more young people to join the armed forces.

Since mid-June, Kurtz has been in charge of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two, one of four naval groups operated by the 29-member alliance. The 51-year-old Navy officer from Joliette, Que., became the first woman to be given such a command in NATO history.

“I do think it sends a really strong signal to the newer generation of young people who want to do a military career, and I say that whether they are women or men, or any minority group,” Kurtz said, in a telephone interview Wednesday from aboard HMCS Halifax off Rota, Spain.

Kurtz said her appointment, which runs until the end of the year, reflects the spirit of diversity in the alliance, which is composed of various cultures and military procedures.

“This appointment speaks to the value of diversity at the sailor end — at the people level,” she said. “I think it’s a tremendous opportunity and I hope that it sends a positive signal.”

Kurtz said her naval group includes vessels from Great Britain, Turkey and Romania.

Her fleet recently participated in two Black Sea exercises in a show of support for allies in the region, such as Ukraine and Bulgaria.

Kurtz said the NATO presence is important, and it offers Canadian sailors an opportunity to hone their training.

The first exercise, Sea Breeze 2019, was a multinational effort led by Ukraine and the United States. The second, called Breeze 2019, was led by Bulgaria.

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