In its six-month deployment on Operation REASSURANCE, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Charlottetown has sailed along the Black Sea, visited the ports of Egypt and completed numerous training exercises alongside other NATO nations.
“I think it’s been an absolute success from a NATO perspective and Canada’s perspective. We’ve worked with a lot of navies, we’ve demonstrated leadership, we’ve worked with countries that perhaps we haven’t always worked with,” said Cmdr. Andrew Hingston, commanding officer of the Charlottetown.
HMCS Charlottetown and her crew of 250 members set sail from Canadian shores on June 29 to join Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) on Operation Reassurance.
Not long after its arrival to the Mediterranean, the ship, and her crew was off on their first exercises from July 18 to August. 5. Sailing through the Straits of Istanbul, Turkey, the ship made its way to the Black Sea for exercise SEA SHIELD and SEA BREEZE.
“The Romanians especially, host of the exercise, were exceptionally pleased to have Canada there as a country taking interest in the Black Sea region that perhaps traditionally doesn’t go there,” noted Hingston.
From there, the Charlottetown was requested to visit Egypt on NATO’s behalf, another stop that Royal Canadian Navy ships don’t typically make. In Egypt, the crew conducted port visits and hosted dignitaries aboard the ship. They also conducted small operations alongside Egyptian, Spanish, and Greek forces.
While in Alexandria, Egypt, the crew had the chance to visit the pyramids.
“For the crew, it’s been great. Especially for the ones that this is their first major deployment,” said Hingston.
In early October, HMCS Charlottetown joined 30 ships from 14 NATO allied nations for JOINT WARRIOR 162 a United Kingdom led exercise off the coast of Scotland.
“I’m always amazed when NATO ships come together, how quickly we can operate with each other even though we may not have seen each other before or talked to each other before,” noted Hingston.
However, the Charlottetown’s time was cut short on this exercise when a Russian aircraft carrier crossed through the English Channel. Charlottetown’s NATO task group was assigned to monitor and follow the aircraft to see if it conducted any kind of operations.
Since then, the Charlottetown has taken part in one more exercise, MAVI BALINA 2016. A Turkish-led exercise, the primary focus of this exercise was anti-submarine warfare and submarine-to-submarine operations. An American unit and Spanish unit took part in this exercise, which was held from Nov. 19 to 29.
Overall, the HMCS Charlottetown has had several chances to fill in leadership roles, heading Danish, Spanish and Italian ships at times.
“It’s been a great opportunity for us to take on a leadership role,” stated Hingston, who credits the crew for the last few months of smooth sailing.
The deployment hasn’t been all work, however, and the crew has had a chance to explore and visit each of the port stops from Crete to Barcelona to cities in Norway. At each stop, activities are planned for the crew whether they are sporting events or tours.
“We really make an effort to enable the crew to enjoy the ports and see everything.
“It’s a big morale thing,” said Hingston.
The crew will be setting sail to return to Canada the second week of January, which means the crew will be spending Christmas at sea this year. Hingston and his officers, however, will be sure to give the crew a Christmas to remember. An entire turkey dinner is planned for Christmas Day, and the officers will be serving their crew. The youngest person aboard HMCS Charlottetown will have the chance to be captain for a few hours while Hingston will serve in the position of the lowest ranking member, something Hingston says usually means washing a lot of dishes.
“Going into the Christmas season I have to say morale is amazing. We’ve been away for almost six months now. We’re getting excited to come home but the morale is amazing, and I couldn’t be prouder of this bunch of guys and gals,” said Hingston.