MCPL Chris Ward embraces his daughter

A heartwarming return from sea

Crew of HMCS Edmonton and Saskatoon returned to CFB Esquimalt last week after a three-month-long deployment.

For the first time in three months, ordinary seaman Justin Swance was able to hold his 16-month-old son Greyson tightly in his arms.

“He’s grown quite a bit, he’s a lot bigger and a lot heavier,” Swance said, as he hugged his son and wife at CFB Esquimalt Friday morning. “It feels really good (to be home).”

In Feburary, Swance and more than 37 crew were deployed on HMCS Edmonton and Saskatoon on what was supposed to be a three-week mission in support of Operation Caribbe, a multi-national campaign against illicit trafficking by transnational organized crime in the Caribbean basin and the eastern Pacific.

However, three weeks eventually turned into a three-month-long deployment for the crew.

“It was hard and took a bit of getting used to,” said Brie Sanford, Swance’s wife. “I would think my struggles were him (Greyson) not remembering him (Swance).”

During Swance’s time at sea, he would stay in contact with his young family — mostly communicating through email daily and every three days, being able to use a satellite phone for up to 15 minutes to call home.

“The hardest part was only being able to physically talk every three days, but being able to email in between made that gap seem like less,” Swance said, adding this was the longest deployment he’s been on. “It kind of makes it seem like you’re not that far away from home even though you’re 10,000 miles way.”

The mission was a success, according to the commanding officer of HMCS Edmonton.

Between the two vessels, they helped in the disruption of the distribtion of more than 3,900 kilograms of cocaine, while working with the U.S. Coast Guard and other law enforcement detachments.

“The numbers speak for themselves. My proudest accomplishment is that the crew came together so well in the process leading up to the deployment and how well they performed when we were there,” said Lt.-Cmdr. Lucas Kenward. “As the commanding officer, nothing makes me happier and more proud to see the crew working together very seamlessly.”

And last week, the crew finally returned home to a swarm of hugs and kisses from family and friends eagerly awaiting their return.

Naval combat information operator Taylor Marsh also left his two-month-old son, Leopold, to serve his country. Now, at six months old, Leopold is able to hold his head up and look around.

“We were a little bit nervous when we first found out (about the deployment) because this is our first kid,” said his wife Jessica Owens, adding her family and friends helped get her through her husband’s deployment. “We’re going to go home and be a little family.”

On the heels of the return of the two vessels, Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan marked a milestone for the Royal Canadian Navy. HMCS Regina was the fifth and final frigate to undergo modernization as part of the $4.3-billion Halifax-Class modernization/frigate life extension refit program.

HMCS Regina has been transferred from the Victoria shipyards to the Department of National Defence’s dockyard.