This article was written by Maj Steve Neta, RIMPAC Public Affairs, and posted on the Canadian Armed Forces website on July 24, 2014.
Riley Hennessey is serving with the Department of National Defence (DND) at Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), the largest military maritime exercise in the world, taking place around the Hawaiian Islands and in San Diego from 26 June to 1 August.
Born and raised in Saint John, Hennessey is a policy advisor at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. Although he’s an experienced advisor with four years at DND, he credits his previous experience with allowing him to offer a fresh perspective to a massive military exercise.
“The best training I received in becoming a policy advisor was working for the New Brunswick provincial government for two years after I graduated from Dalhousie University,” said Hennessey.
Prior to working with DND, he served as a policy analyst with the New Brunswick Department of Intergovernmental Affairs and as a policy advisor with the Canadian Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
“Watching how senior officials negotiated trade deals with other provinces, being in the room for major federal and provincial meetings, and working with talented civil servants gave me the real-world education I needed to become a policy advisor.”
Now, at an international military exercise with 49 ships, over 200 aircraft, and 25,000 military personnel from 22 different countries, Hennessy brings a diverse viewpoint to the coalition.
“It is inspiring to see the level of cooperation taking place. It is also extraordinary to be one of the few civilians here and interact with military officials from countries like India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Chile,” he said.
Hennessey’s experience put him in the unique position of helping design certain scenarios within the exercise. Meanwhile, within the ongoing exercise scenario, he serves as the [simulated] policy advisor to the UN Special Representative to the Secretary-General.
It’s in these roles that he truly values the opportunity before him.
“The incredible complexity of coalition military operations has been stunning. The challenges of establishing coalitions are immense – language barriers, technological constraints, equipment interoperability, physical space for command locations, communications, equipment malfunction, performance management – the list goes on. Understanding the magnitude of tasks that go into forming and executing a coalition has been a real eye opener for me and I will definitely take that back to my work in Ottawa.”