Homeward bound: Navy frigate en route to Esquimalt
HMCS Regina is in the homestretch of a long deployment to the Arabian Sea and crew members are excited to be that much closer to Esquimalt Harbour.
Between participating in the multinational counter-terrorism Operation ARTEMIS, undertaking training exercises and engaging in outreach efforts in various ports of call, it has been an eventful eight months, said the ship’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Jason Boyd.
“Pulling in the harbour that morning on the 14th, there will be a real sense of satisfaction when we get home,” he said during a stopover in Hawaii on Tuesday.
But even after accomplishing such things as interrupting an illicit drug shipment in January and helping rescue the crew of a stranded Yemeni fishing boat in October, the yearning to get home is strong.
“It’s such a long transit home in the Pacific Ocean,” Boyd said. “When we dropped out of (the mission) and we’re finally pointing east and heading toward home, you realize there’s still 50 days in front of you before you get there. Things tend to dip a little in terms of spirits and morale. But Hawaii is a very familiar stop for our sailors, with lots of familiar landmarks. We know it means we’re not far from home.”
Regina and ships from the 26 other partner nations in Operation ARTEMIS operated under a different mandate than the UN Security Council resolution that followed 9-11, Boyd said. Their powers to act, upon boarding a suspected drug smuggling ship, are limited to seizing the narcotics and letting the individuals go free.
When Regina disrupted the smuggler ship – the vessel was tracked using a state-of-the-art unmanned aerial vehicle – the culprits fled and dropped most of cargo over the side, leaving an estimated 450 kilograms of narcotics to sink to the bottom of the sea.
The UAV boosted the ship’s reconnaissance capability, Boyd said. “We were looked upon as one of the go-to ships because of our surveillance abilities. It made us a big player and brought a lot of credibility to our navy.”
In all, Regina crew boarded 19 vessels, mostly just to check nationality of those on board, he said.
After the ship reaches port next Thursday, it will enter a period of technical maintenance to bring the frigate back up to ship-shape.
Boyd is due to take over the Naval Officer Training Centre in Esquimalt in May or June, while Cmdr. Dan Charlebois, currently stationed at naval headquarters in Ottawa, will take over as commander of Regina.