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News - All - 27 Jan 2018

News Item 185 of 4496 

Miscellaneous: 27 Jan 2018
HMCS Summerside, Kingston head for Africa

Officers wave from the bridge of HMCS Kingston on Friday as the ship cast off from CFB Halifax for a three-month deployment to West Africa. (TOM AYERS / Staff)

Naval officers and crew with two maritime coastal defence vessels were undoubtedly thinking about warmer temperatures Friday morning as they prepared to cast off from CFB Halifax on their way to West Africa.

It was -13 C and mostly overcast with gusty winds on the jetty where HMCS Summerside was docked and HMCS Kingston was tied alongside. A small group of family, friends and colleagues gathered to wave goodbye as the two small warships headed off for a three-month deployment.

Larissa Page was dressed in a thick parka and had her daughters Sydney, 4, and Ellis, 2, bundled up tight against the cold. All three got a pleasant surprise when their husband and father, leading seaman Matthew Page, disembarked for an unexpected last-minute family reunion before departure.

Larissa said her husband, a maritime engineering mechanic, has been away on long deployments before, but not since the girls were born.

Sydney understands her father is going to be away for a while, said Larissa, but Ellis is too young to grasp the concept.

“I wouldn’t say it’s really difficult,” she said. “It’s life and we’re prepared for it and we’re excited to send him off to do his job.

“It’s been a long time since he’s gotten to sail, and we’ll just do what we have to do here.”

Commodore Craig Skjerpen, commander of Canadian Fleet Atlantic, thanked the small crowd for coming out, saying their support was important because the officers and crew will be away from home for Valentine’s Day, spring break, Easter and more.

“Even though they’re gone for three months, there’s a lot of family milestones that are going to be missed on top of birthdays and anniversaries that can come up during that period,” he said.

The ships are taking part in a U.S. navy-led exercise called Obangame Express 2018, involving several West African nations.

Officials said the mission is to build capacity and learn to work with other navies, including stopping and boarding other ships for enforcement purposes, as well as to participate in humanitarian projects.

The Kingston’s executive officer and second in command, Lt. Andrea Murray, said the coastal defence vessels aren’t really designed for overseas deployment, but they have crossed the ocean before.

In fact, her twin sister was aboard last year when Kingston took part in an earlier deployment to Africa. The ship went to the Caribbean first to make the ocean crossing shorter.

“It’s a little bumpy because we are flat-bottoms,” Murray said. “We were supposed to be minesweepers. That was the original concept for them. So we’re headed down south so that we don’t have to cross the North Atlantic at this time of year.”

Lt.-Cmdr. Paul Smith, who commanded Summerside and the overall mission last year, said even though the ships were originally designed for inshore work, they have been modified over the years and the crews are well trained.

“Over the past 20 years they’ve understood and increased the capability,” he said. “These ships can go anywhere.

“When I was in command, we were able to go to the Arctic, and conduct drug patrol operations in the Caribbean, exercise in the Mediterranean, as well as the west coast of Africa.

“The food is fantastic. We’ve got some of the best cooks in the fleet. As far as comfort, you are in the navy so it’s certainly not a cruise ship. But the crews are very well looked after.”

Lt.-Cmdr. Emily Lambert, Summerside’s commanding officer for this year’s deployment, said she is excited about working with people in various African communities.

“I look forward to bringing the spirit of Canada with us to West Africa as we go to some of the places like women’s shelters and . . . schools.”

Lambert also said discussing women in leadership roles will also be a key part of the trip.

Only about six of the 45 crew aboard Summerside are women, but some are in high-ranking positions. In addition to Lambert, the executive officers on both Summerside and Kingston are women, she said.

TOM AYERS The Chronicle Herald/AA

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