Service information for:
Service info: Captain Steve Foldesi, RCN Ret'd, RANR
A unique career - half century of naval service
(Webmaster's note: Steve's history below is from his anecdote # 6 (linked below his service history) which can be read in PDF format with photos included)
Steve was born in 1946 in Hungary, his family emigrating from Budapest during the 1956 revolution and settling in Montreal. "In early 1964 as I was approaching high school graduation I happened to walk by HMCS DONNACONA on Drummond Street. A large colour poster depicting a dashing naval officer on the open bridge of a Tribal caught my eye. He was a Commander, sporting silver sideburns, scanning the horizon with Pusser binoculars. I had found my vocation, not realising this serendipitous event would lead to an association with two navies that would last over a half century."
ROTP McGill accepted him and thanks to his father's vision, all his early education was in French schools. Becoming one of relatively few bilingual officers was to have a considerable impact on his future naval career.
Armed with a BSc from McGill, in May 1968 Steve arrived in Halifax for pre-fleet training as a brand new Subbie. Upon course completion he joined HMCS OTTAWA and sailed for Europe shortly thereafter as part of the BONAVENTURE task group for exercises with NATO forces. "I vividly recall coming to the bridge to take over as 2OOW for the middle watch to find us alongside HMCS PROVIDER. Little did I know that the chap with the white goatee (Captain Bill Stuart) on the starboard wing would, 22 years later, be me."
These were exciting but difficult times for the Navy. Paul Hellier had already put the CF on an integration and unification path that would last until recently when the current government gave the navy back the curl and along with it its name, tradition and self-respect. "I recall that first trip to Portsmouth with Bonnie. I blew my $200 green uniform allowance on a 48 in London and didn't shift to garbage bag green until the last minute in 1971."
Steve recalls a critical shortage of manpower was to mark the next few years. He was halfway through his Sea Requirements vying for a Bridge Watchkeeping Ticket (BWK) when he was abruptly sent off on the Nav O course. He returned as OTTAWA's navigator and it was a further six months before he could challenge the board, chaired by Captain Jim Cutts, then commanding the carrier. Pierre Simard, the CO of OTTAWA, promptly issued Steve his ticket. Shortly thereafter he moved over to weapons and air control. At this time, OTTAWA was the French Language Unit (FLU).
The manpower situation was not improving. "Chris Haines, Marty Middleton and I were the only watch keepers with Chris and I also pulling ASAC duties while also acting as Navigator and Deputy Weapons respectively. It wasn't any better below decks. The ship's company, excluding the zoomies, was fixed at 162 seamen. Later I carried 285 in SKEENA. One of the great mysteries was the disappearance of Bonnie's 1200 or so personnel when she paid off in 1970. They seem to have vaporised almost overnight."
Steve had found his niche in weapons and attended the 14th (and last) Long Weapons Course 1971-72 only to return to OTTAWA as her Weapons Officer (WO). After the FLU moved from OTTAWA to SKEENA, he also transferred to the latter ship and remained her WO until early 1975 when he was posted as MARCOM Staff Officer Sea Operations. This was followed by two years as a squadron commander at CMR St Jean.
In 1977 he finally escaped FLU postings and was appointed Deputy Commandant of the Naval Reserve Training Centre (NRTC) in Esquimalt. This lasted for the summer training period and subsequently he went to DESRON TWO under Captain Stan Riddell's command as Squadron Ops Officer. The highlight of this appointment was the planning and execution of D2's participation in RIMPAC 78 including a recce visit to Australia and New Zealand, where he met his future wife, Margaret. A direct outcome of this visit was the chop of HMNZS WAIKATO to D2 for six months. This New Zealand frigate even sported the red maple leaf with the bold number 2 in the centre mounted on her funnel for the time she was with D2.
Staff College followed and upon graduation Steve returned to the West as XO HMCS QU'APPELLE. Two very rewarding and satisfying years followed. When Jan Drent completed his tour in command, at Captain Frank Hope's insistence (as D4 and Commander Training Group Pacific), Steve was appointed in command until Cdr Bob Luke joined some three months later. His XO appointment was followed by two years as Senior Staff Officer to CDS (General Ramsey Withers). In 1983 he was appointed in command of HMCS SKEENA.
Command turned out to be everything he expected it to be. As it turned out, SKEENA did everything in 'two's': two tours in STANAVFORLANT, two MARCOTs, two January/February fisheries patrols off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, two COMBATEX, two DNO course sea phases, and two visits to Quebec City. At times Steve thought that MARCOM's force generator was stuck on 207, SKEENA's pennant number, but "I wasn't complaining. After all, this is what I joined for with the added advantage of an enclosed bridge and my sideburns were yet to turn silver. Unfortunately my Pusser binoculars were the same heavy ones I first saw in the recruiting poster."
As anyone who has ever experienced the privilege of command knows, one can always count on Murphy to spoil the day: "I was most fortunate as I always had help when in a tight spot. My early experience as navigator certainly got me out of a few jams but most importantly I owe my success in large part to two of the finest officers I ever had the privilege to serve: Neil Boivin who taught me the importance of knowing and looking after your troops and Bob Luke who taught me the art of seamanship."
The fun could not last forever, so it was off to Staff College as a director for two years. Promoted Captain in 1987, he attended the National Defence College in Kingston and in 1988 was sent to Quebec City as CO Naval Divisions (COND).
As Steve recalls, these were very exciting times for the Naval Reserve. The Mulroney government had recently published a new White Paper announcing nuclear subs and money for the Naval Reserve. For the first time the Naval Reserve was to have its own mission: NCS, coastal defence and route survey. New Naval Reserve Divisions were being commissioned to increase the number to 24. There was money for bricks and mortar to build and replace inadequate quarters. The Kingston class were under construction. Captain J.A.Y. Plante (Director Maritime Requirements at NDHQ at the time) and he were negotiating to purchase prime waterfront real estate in Quebec City as the future home of Naval Reserve Headquarters and Fleet School Quebec. The submarines did not materialise but all Reserve programs did.
Once again Steve escaped FLU related appointments in 1990 when he went back West to take command of HMCS PROVIDER "and my beard was yet to emulate Bill Stuart's." Two more busy years followed. 1991 was the year of Desert Shield and Desert Storm resulting in five taskings of which three were regrettably cancelled.
Initially, PROVIDER was to replace PROTECTEUR in the Gulf. The decision was later made to send HMCS PRESERVER's crew instead. PROVIDER was then tasked to deliver as many 500 lb bombs and CRV 7 rockets for the deployed CF18s as could fitted into the ship. Halfway to Prince Rupert to pick up the ammo, the war ended. Next came a tasking to pick up the Army's gear in Qatar and deliver it to Gagetown or Quebec City. Unfortunately, a commercial RoRo proved cheaper.
All was not lost. When HMCS HURON was tasked to proceed to the Gulf, PROVIDER sailed as her private gas station as far as Panama Bay. The night before her last RAS and proceeding into the canal, the CO was dining with Steve in his cabin when someone stuck his head through the curtain to inform them that the first Tomahawks had just landed in Baghdad.
Curiously, at this point PROVIDER was closer to Halifax than Esquimalt and therefore he expected something from MARPACHQ to either reroute the ship or confirm the mission and return to home port. Not a word, so Steve called Margaret on INMARSAT and told her to pass the word through the Family Support network that the following day PROVIDER was turning North and heading for home. "After the last RAS the following morning, with HURON guide and PROVIDER doing the station keeping, I played Roger Whittaker's 'Last Farewell' on breakaway. I was later told there was not a dry eye in the house next door."
PROVIDER got to repeat this trip soon thereafter, this time to escort HMCS RESTIGOUCHE enroute East as the first Westcoaster to join STANAVFORLANT. A 'shave and a haircut' short work period after the ship's returned to Esquimalt and PROVIDER was off again, this time to Guam to provide AOR support to HURON on her way back from the Gulf. "This time I played Rod Steward's 'Sailing' on rendezvous, bedecked with bed sheets displaying family greetings. Once again, tissues were in short supply."
1991 was still far from over. As Task Group Commander (CTG) with PROVIDER, YUKON, SASKATCHEWAN and MACKENZIE under his command, the ships were off to Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia. The main element of the deployment was attendance at the Royal New Zealand Navy's 50th anniversary celebrations. "My kiwi wife joined me in the Bay of Islands to attend Maori arrival ceremonies at the Waitangi Treaty House. It was the highlight of the deployment, and of my naval career, to steam the next morning into her native city Auckland with Margaret sitting in my chair."
1992 was just as exciting. It started with the Portland Rose Festival. "You just haven't lived until you have taken a single screw, single bottom tanker with no bow thruster up the Columbia River averaging a foot and a half of water under your keel for the better part of the 100 plus nautical mile journey. Moreover, as we left Portland, the last 50 nautical miles to Astoria were completed in zero visibility. PROVIDER was not equipped for blind pilotage as commonly practiced in destroyers. This lack of equipment was more than offset by the competence of what constituted my blind pilotage team: the Navigator, Lt Haydn Edmudson, and LSRP Randy Wilson."
The year ended with RIMPAC 92 and a change of command to Bruce McLean in July. After a brief year as MARPAC COS Readiness, Margaret and Steve arrived in Australia in July 1993. His appointment as Canadian Defence Advisor (CDA) to Australia and New Zealand did not happen by accident. While in Portland for the Rose Festival, COMMARPAC joined the festivities. "On the Sunday he invited me to meet him to his hotel's foyer for a debrief of my annual PER. The Navy chose to promote me to the rank of Captain before my 41st birthday but now it seemed that I had peaked. We agreed on a plan. When the CDA Canberra position became vacant in 1993, he would endeavour to secure the appointment for me with the understanding that upon its termination I would retire early and thus open up the promotion list for one more Captain's promotion four early."
This tallied with long term aims as he and Margaret were planning on building their retirement home on the three quarter acre of ocean front they owned north of Auckland.
"Before leaving PROVIDER one more issue deserves mention. Steve had the privilege of training and influencing the career of two very fine junior officers who earned their BWK under his command. One was SLt Josee Boisclair. "I had occasion to tell her parents that in my opinion she was born with a captain's chair strapped to her bum. She is now Captain Josee Kurtz. As a Commander she was the first woman to command a frigate (HMCS HALIFAX) and a few years ago named one of Canada's 100 most powerful women."
The other is SLt Jonathan Sadleir. He later qualified as a deep draught navigator, eventually emigrating to Australia and joining the RAN. After commanding HMAS PARRAMATTA, a Meko class frigate, he is about to commission HMAS ADELAIDE as the first CO. ADELAIDE and her sister ship CANBERRA are Spanish designed LHDs and the largest ships ever to be commissioned into the RAN."
Four years later on 31 August 1997, on completion of his tour as CDA Canberra, Steve delivered on the Portland agreement. He resigned from the Navy after 33 years of service and mailed in his ID card. In the meantime, he and Margaret came to the conclusion that they would be happier there in Canberra than living on the beach North of Auckland. "After all, we had made lots of friends in the previous four years, our neighbours were actually talking to us and even the supermarket checkout staff recognised us. In other words we had grown roots, something we never managed in Canada due to postings, none of which lasting more than two years."
At a reception shortly after this change of plans, VAdm Rod Taylor, RAN, Chief of Naval Staff, suggested that Steve may wish to join the RANR. Hoping for part time or part year work as a second career, Steve saw this as fitting in with his aims very well. "After all, at 51years of age I was far too young to fully retire."
The RANR welcomed him and immediately enrolled him as a Captain with full seniority back to 1 January 1987. "It was quite humorous at first as I was immediately the third most senior RANR Captain in the officers list, yet while I was known by all the brass for my tenure as CDA Canberra, most of my peers and juniors had never heard of me."
According to Steve, the RAN was undergoing its own personnel shortage problems and, as CNS had predicted, it wasn't long before offers of employment started to arrive. As an economy measure the RAN created Naval Systems Command (NAVSYSCOM), amalgamating all personnel and training agencies, all engineering functions, trial and test establishments and all shore facilities from radio stations to dockyards and naval bases. In other words Maritime Commander Australia (MCAUST) owned the ships; COMNAVSYSCOM owned everything else.
In typical naval fashion, however, the CNS directive creating the new command laid out the Commander's responsibilities yet failed to assign him staff resources to carry them out. This is where the RANR came in and for the next two years Steve became NAVSYSCOM's Director of Change Management, largely responsible for creating order out of chaos. He eventually turned over the appointment to a permanent force commander.
Another serendipitous event put him back on the RANR payroll almost immediately. Successive Senate inquiries had been raking over the coals the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) for years of long delays in the staffing of administrative inquiries and the completion of summary trials and courts martial. Moreover, there was a total lack of documentary follow-up on inquiry recommendations and disciplinary outcomes. As part of the promised fix, the ADF created the position of Registrar of Military Justice (RMJ). Steve was appointed the first RMJ. When the Australian Government decided to abolish the court martial system in favour of an independent and fully transparent Military Court of Australia, the RMJ position was amended to require a permanent force officer of the legal (JAG) branch.
Among his other duties, as RMJ for over five years, Steve had to design, implement and manage two data bases deployed across the entire ADF, accessible in real time anywhere in the world. The new RMJ, however, wanted nothing to do with them. Consequently, the buck was passed to the Inspector General ADF (IG ADF) who held responsibility for the oversight of military justice in its broadest sense. Steve then applied for a newly created position and for the next six years became a Defence public servant in the position of Director Standards and Analysis. Retaining his RANR commission throughout, he occasionally acted as team leader of IG ADF military justice audits of ADF units. When he reached age 65, he resigned from this position but continued to serve in the RANR on post CRA extensions in two year increments. The current one will expire on 25 July 2015.
The RANR continues to keep Steve off the street. Since giving up full time employment in 2011, he chaired the CPO2 to CPO1 promotion board and worked as part of Navy's "Rizzo" team, a government directed project aimed at improving material acquisition and maintenance processes. As this is being written, he is about to become a member of the Defence White Paper drafting team. Upon its completion in May 2015, he will chair one more CPO2 to CPO1 promotion board and then hand in his ID card for the second and last time.
This will end a most successful, rewarding and amazing career, spanning a total in excess of 51 years serving Her Majesty in two navies.
Ships served in:
HMCS OTTAWA - Served in OTTAWA Jul 1968 - Mid 1971 for BWK trg, NavO, ASAC, Deputy WO
CFFS HALIFAX - Served at CFFS(H) Mid 1971 - mid 1972 for 15th Weapons Specialty Course
HMCS OTTAWA - Served in OTTAWA 1972-1973 as Weapons Officer
HMCS SKEENA - Served in SKEENA 1973 - Jan 1975 as Weapons Officer
SECOND DESTROYER SQUADRON - Served on Staff of CCD2 as Squadron Operations Officer 15 Aug 1977 - 21 Aug 1978 (admin posted to HMCS GATINEAU)
HMCS QU'APPELLE - Served in QU'APPELLE 03 Jul 1979 - 04 Aug 1981 as XO and CO.
HMCS SKEENA - Served in SKEENA 26 Sep 1983 - 05 Aug 1985 as Commanding Officer
HMCS PROVIDER - Served in PROVIDER 03 Jul 1990 - 27 Jul 1992 as Commanding Officer
Anecdote 1 - The Naval Reserve Presence in Quebec
Anecdote 2 - HMCS SKEENA - STANAVFORLANT 1985
Anecdote 3 - HMCS SKEENA - Year of the Jacques Cartier 450th Anniversary and the Tall Ships
Anecdote 4 - Operation Desert Storm - almost
Anecdote 5 - VAdm Haydn Edmundson
Anecdote 6 - A unique career - half century of naval service
Anecdote 7 - HMCS PROVIDER - Dinner with the Soviets 1991
Anecdote 8 - HMCS SKEENA - Memorial Service for HMCS ATHABASKAN G07 - 1985
A collage of photos from Steve's career
Click on the image below left to view the photo pdf file