Skip to comments.HMCS Toronto leaves for NATO mission in Mediterranean
Posted on 07/24/2014 12:45:45 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
There were more than a few trembling chins, red eyes and sniffly noses as sailors filed past a crowd to board HMCS Toronto on Thursday morning.
And those were just the crew members.
On the jetty at HMC Dockyard, a little girl bawled as she watched her dad walk toward the gangplank. A couple embraced and indulged in a kiss that would normally be reserved for a private setting. One last whispered I love you and it was time to go.
Two hundred and fifty-seven women and men set sail from Halifax to join NATO forces responding to the crisis in Ukraine. They are scheduled to arrive in the Mediterranean Sea in early August and return around December.
Defence Minister Rob Nicholson was on hand to bid adieu to the departing sailors.
The mission you are about to undertake is a fundamental part of Canadas response to the crisis in the Ukraine. Its also a firm commitment in support of our allies and international partners, he said.
Our government is taking this situation seriously. Canada will continue to apply pressure on the Putin regime in the face of its provocative military action against Ukraine and refusal to end support for armed separatist groups that pose a threat to the security of Ukraines citizens.
HMCS Toronto will replace HMCS Regina, which has been part of Standing NATO Maritime Forces since May.
Canada has already committed six CF-18 fighter aircraft, 24 Canadian Armed Forces staff members to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, Canadian Army soldiers and now HMCS Toronto to support NATO measures in the area. HMCS Torontos deployment will support international efforts, including surveillance, monitoring, regional defence and diplomatic efforts.
Although they dont know the return date of the ship, its of particular interest to Master Seaman Kurt Sheppard and his wife Stefanie. Theyre expecting their second child on Dec. 25.
I really want to be here, but we got a job to do and fortunately Im part of it, said Kurt as he snuggled his three-year-old son Colton in his arms.
Stefanie said she has lots of family support in the area, but of course she hopes her husband can be present for the birth.
If the baby comes before he gets home, then hell get to meet them when he gets home, said Stefanie. Itll be a nice Christmas present.
For Karen Walsh, whose husband Sgt. Michael Walsh was being deployed, leaving is simply part of the gig.
Its fine. Its his job. Hell go and hell come home, she said, perhaps a little more nonchalantly than others gathered on the jetty.
Walsh herself served for eight months in Afghanistan before leaving the military, so Thursdays departure was a role reversal for the couple.
Now its my turn to see him off, she said.
Emily Barnard wasnt able to be quite so cool about the ships departure as she said goodbye to her boyfriend, Able Seaman Anthony MacKeigan, who was on his first deployment.
Im nervous for what theyre doing and just everything, she said, holding her five-month-old daughter, Lilly MacKeigan. Im scared, nervous.
Its just sad that she wont remember who he is when he gets back, she said of Lilly.
Lt. Dan Saunders had mixed feelings as he said goodbye to his wife Joanna and son Jason.
Its exciting career-wise. This is why we join up and this is why we do it. So its exciting that way, but of course its always hard to leave your family for an extended period of time, he said.
The ships commanding officer, Cmdr. Jason Armstrong, told the families that they, too, are an integral part of Operation Reassurance.
We could not do this important work and deploy on this mission without you, he told family members and friends who had gathered for the departure ceremony. We will do you proud. I know that today is a sad day for a great number of you. But know that we will always be thinking of you.
As a military band played, the ships horn gave two long blasts and the vessel inched slowly away from the dock. Family members stepped a couple of metres closer to the edge of the jetty to be nearer as they blew kisses and waved. Cellphone videos captured every last second as the ship slipped away into the fog.
On the jetty among the crowd, a girl held a sign that read, This is Not Goodbye Daddy, This is Thank You for Serving Canada.
Was it escorted with towing tugs??
With the recent history of HMCS submarines, one or two might be in order.