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From the oilpatch to Canada's navy, veteran reflects on 34 years of service

Chief Petty Officer Second Class Duane Gall reflects on his time in the Royal Canadian Navy and his time spent working in the oilfield.

ESTEVAN - Chief Petty Officer Second Class Duane Gall has found a lengthy and rewarding career with the Royal Canadian Navy.

But before serving his country, he was working in the oilfield in southeast Saskatchewan.

Gall was the guest speaker at the Remembrance Day service hosted by the Estevan branch of the Royal Canadian Legion on Saturday at the Estevan Comprehensive School. A former resident of Bienfait and Estevan, he recalled that his father worked in the patch, too.  

Duane Gall left Estevan when he was young and spent several years in both Scotland and Singapore, as his father worked in oilfield jobs all over the world. Duane Gall then returned to the southeast and attended high school at ECS. 

After graduation, he went to school to become a welder and worked a few oilfield jobs along the way, including gigs for Schindle and Bazin and a short stint with AT Naka Ltd. before he joined the Canadian Forces. 

Gall has 34 years of experience with the navy, as he enlisted on March 16, 1989.

"The recruiters got me hook, line and sinker. The recruiters knew just how to get me interested, paraphrasing something like do you want to shoot guns, drive boats, blow things up and travel the world?" Gall said.

The 20-year-old Gall thought 'Boy, do I ever.'"

He went through basic training at Cornwallis, N.S., and then moved to the west coast, where he has been based ever since.

During his time in the navy, Gall has sailed on four different classes of ships and nine different boats. Fittingly, the first ship he sailed on was the HMCS Saskatchewan in 1989, where he learned his way at sea.

"My only regret is I never got the opportunity to sail on HMCS Regina," said Gall.

He told the crowd that one of the most memorable times of his career was getting to spend Christmas at sea. The people aboard make the best of the situation, but they're also thinking of their families.

"It's a different affair when you're at sea with 220 of your closest friends [for Christmas]," he said. 

One mission took him to the Far East, going from Korea to India, and making stops in Singapore, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and more. The southern-most deployment was Australia and New Zealand. He was in New Zealand in 1991 for the 50th anniversary of that country's navy.

In 2011, he was part of Operation Mobile, which assisted with liberating Libya and overthrowing former president Muammar Gaddafi.

Incorporating humour into his speech, Gall said he has learned a few things, such as having 14 pairs of socks and 14 pairs of underwear at all times, and to do laundry twice a week.

"Nobody wants to be stuck at sea for a month, when the washing machine breaks and you're on your 12th or so pair of underwear," said Gall to laughter from the crowd.

It's also important to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and to be proactive in all situations.

"If you visualize yourself going through various scenarios, if something comes up, then it doesn't have to be a surprise," he said.

The most important thing that he has learned, which he tries to pass on when teaching at the junior leadership school, is know the personnel and promote their welfare. If they know what is happening and the chain of command has their best interests at heart, they will always have his back.

"We're always stronger when everybody knows as much information as you can pass down to them," said Gall.

Remembrance Day is a time to honour those who served in war and in peace time, he said, as well as those who have died while serving their country. Gall became emotional as he talked about three people he knew who died while part of the Navy, including a friend of his, Master Sailer Duane Earle, who was lost at see in 2020. He also paid tribute to family members who have served their country.

Gall told the Mercury and SaskToday after his speech that he will be retiring next year after 35 years with the navy. He also pointed out his brother Allan spent 20 years serving with both the Royal Canadian Air Force and its counterpart in New Zealand as an air traffic controller.

Master of ceremonies Geoff Thiessen said Gall spent over 22 years on ships and over 2,200 days at sea. He has had several positions within the navy.

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