The Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) recent deployment to Western Africa, Neptune-Trident 17-01, is aimed at conducting maritime exercises and fostering relationships. However, it has a much more personal significance for LCdr. Paul Smith, the first African-Canadian to command a navy patrol ship.
“I am African. I’ve always wanted to come here…it’s been a rewarding experience. An opportunity to serve my country, the RCN but also help out in the community. I feel guilty sometimes because I feel I’m getting personally so much out of it,” said Smith, the Commanding Officer of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Summerside.
HMCS Summerside, along with HMCS Moncton, are currently sailing the shores of West Africa and connecting with regional partners on the RCN’s latest deployment.
“It’s an opportunity for the RCN to train in a different environment and conduct relationship-building with Western African Nations,” said Smith.
The crews set sail on Feb. 18 from Halifax, NS. One of their first stops was Freetown, Sierra Leone. Although Freetown is the largest city and the capital of Sierra Leone, it’s history is of far more significance for the sailors of Neptune-Trident. Freetown was founded by hundreds of freed American slaves who set sail to build their new lives from Nova Scotia.
During their visit in this historic city, the crews of the ships had a chance to visit schools, build a library and meet with local women who shared the challenges they face in their country. The crew also had a chance to visit an orphanage and invite the children to explore the ship.
“The first stop was extremely rewarding for many of the ship’s company. It was an opportunity to put smiles on faces,” added Smith.
HMCS Summerside is currently en route to Côte d’Ivoire. HMCS Summerside and Moncton are scheduled to visit the Canary Islands, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Liberia during the deployments.
During Neptune-Trident the ships will also partake in Obangame Express 2017, a maritime training event led by U.S. Naval Forces Africa. Meaning togetherness in the Cameroonian language Fang, Obangame Express will take place off of the Gulf of Guinea and will include a number of African nations.
HMCS Monton and HMCS Summerside are expected to return to Canadian shores in early May.