CFB Esquimalt commander

Reaching out to the military community

CFB Esquimalt commander navy Capt. Craig Baines broadens his reach to military and civilian personnel in some surprising ways



With about six months left to go in his job as commander of CFB Esquimalt, navy Capt. Craig Baines is focused on checking off a number of items on his to-do list.

“We kind of joke with the other municipalities that we’re the 14th municipality in a sense and I think it’s a good metaphor to say that I’m the mayor of that municipality,” he says. “My responsibilities are very similar, actually.”

Base commanders typically serve for two years, before being assigned to another position elsewhere. Baines hasn’t received his official message yet, telling him when or where his next challenge will be.

The 44-year-old Esquimalt resident heads over to the large desk in his office and taps at his keyboard to access the schedule on his computer.

Baines divides his time between meeting with mayors, base union officials and external organizations such as the United Way of Greater Victoria and the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, among others.

In addition to being in charge of base security – the base was the final destination of the migrant ship MV Sun Sea that arrived carrying hundreds of Tamils in 2010 – and being the ultimate authority in employee disciplinary action, he also regularly meets with a team of officers who lead different departments at the base.

With their input, Baines prioritizes where 1,000 civilian employees are best employed, and how best to spend the base’s $130-million annual budget. He also leads 1,500 military members.

“We’ve been grappling with managing our workforce to the appropriate levels,” he says, adding that though a lot of strategic change is coming, no announcement has been made.

Until then, one of Baines’ priorities is to “live within our means,” despite the challenge that involves, as well as ensuring the well-being of the 1,000 civilians and 1,500 military members – not counting fleet personnel – under his command.

With them in mind, the commander hopes to sign a contract in January for a coffee company to set up shop at Nelles Block in April, where many junior non-commissioned members live.

The creation of a gathering place, which the coffee drinker says he plans to visit daily, is meant to improve quality of life for those working on the Naden side of the base. There is already a canteen at dockyard.

“It’s a meeting place,” Baines says.

His team is also putting the finishing touches on a new online hub, a groundbreaking website believed to be the first of its kind for the Canadian Forces.

The internal communications portal will allow civilian employees and military personnel to post their ideas and feedback on issues and changes at the base.

The website, called “Our Base,” is set to launch the first week of January, and will feature the base commander’s blog, a comic, new initiatives spawned from members’ ideas, a link to the base newspaper and videos, among other features.

Baines is looking forward to reading comments, which can be immediately posted with a name or vetted and eventually posted if sent anonymously.

“A lot of times the people who are actually doing the work have great ideas on how to do that work better,” Baines says. “But because we are in a hierarchical system, it is sometimes difficult for them to get those ideas to the decision makers.”

One of his objectives since his term began in 2010 has been to create a climate in which those ideas are encouraged and put into practice.

“Most of the time we communicate to people,” Baines says. “What we want to do is communicate with people. When you have 2,500 people working for you it’s hard to do that.”

The web portal will allow the commander to explain decisions, such as why staffing positions may be filled in certain units over others, for example.

“Not all those decisions will be supported, not all those decisions will make people happy,” Baines says. “But my belief is if you can provide people with context and let them understand the ‘why’ behind this stuff, it’s much better than trying to impose change without explaining it.”

emccracken@vicnews.com

 

Check out www.vicnews.com to watch a video that accompanies this story.

 

Just Posted

Flat tire, kindness of strangers, surprisingly inflate hope

Sooke mom and her daughters knocked on door of Bob and Norma Saunders seeking help

Health Canada suspends Island pot producer’s licence following unannounced visit

Evergreen Medicinal Supply is working on “corrective action”

Victoria student out $600 for lack of e-bike insurance blames confusing rules

B.C. regulation says e-bike motors must turn off if rider stops pedalling, or bike must be insured

Oak Bay grants 60 days of protection for century-old mansion

J.W. Morris House slated for removal by Abstract Developments

Saanich police ask for public’s help locating missing high risk youth

The 12-year-old was last seen before school on Monday morning

Sealand was much more than killer whales, says ex-employee

Former Sealasd trainer revisits Sealand of the Pacific in talk

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of September 17

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Should the province step in to upgrade the road to Bamfield?

The death of two University of Victoria students on a bus bound… Continue reading

35 of 87 dogs in 2018 Williams Lake seizure were euthanized due to behavioural issues, BCSPCA confirm

The dogs did not respond to the behaviour modification and remained terrified of humans

B.C. ‘tent city’ disputes spark call for local government autonomy

UBCM backs Maple Ridge after province overrules city

B.C. drug dealers arrested after traffic stop near Banff turns into helicopter pursuit

Antonio Nolasco-Padia, 23, and Dina Anthony, 55, both well-known to Chilliwack law enforcement

B.C. MLA calls on province to restrict vaping as first related illness appears in Canada

Todd Stone, Liberal MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, introduced an anti-vaping bill in April

Most Read