Four days and counting, Regina’s almost home

HMCS Regina boarding party approaches fishing dhow

Cpl Rick Ayer, Formation Imaging Services Halifax
Members of the Naval Boarding Party from HMCS Regina, deployed in their Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat, approach a fishing dhow in the Arabian Sea during Operation Artemis.

After travelling 50,000 nautical miles for Operation Artemis, the ship, and air and naval crew of HMCS Regina are only four days away from being home and enjoying the hugs of loved ones.

Hundreds of family and friends will line A jetty the morning of March 14 in anticipation of the warship’s return.

The thrill of seeing the shoreline of Victoria, and the smiling faces of nearest and dearest is growing equally on board the ship.

“We can’t wait to reunite with our families,” said Cdr Jason Boyd, Commanding Officer. “The atmosphere on the ship is one of absolute excitement.”

It’s been eight months since the warship sailed from Esquimalt harbour on a mission to keep the Arabian Sea secure.

The Canadian ship was part of a multi-national naval force  – Combined Task Force 150 – tasked to monitor the area for troublesome activity.

“Our economy floats on salt water and our mission was to promote security, sovereignty, and prosperity across the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, and Gulf of Oman,” explained Cdr Boyd in a phone interview. “These are some of the most important shipping lanes in the world. This involves keeping the sea lanes safe and preventing the shipping of illicit cargo.”

While at sea in the operational area, Regina boarded and examined 19 vessels. Its embarked Sea King helicopter quickly became a familiar sight on the horizon, clocking 388 hours of air time. And the ship’s newsiest capability, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that was manned by four gunners and a small team of civilians was in the air for 545 hours to take surveillance photos.

The peak of this deployment took place Jan. 11 when Regina disrupted a drug smuggling operation on the seas. More than 1,000 pounds of narcotics were dropped overboard in an effort to rid the boat of its illegal activity.

“We felt good for intercepting those narcotics and not allowing them to get into the hands they were intended to,” said Cdr Boyd. “I can’t speculate where the cargo was destined for, but we were happy to make that interception.”

It wasn’t all high seas law-breaking drama though. The ship helped a dhow in distress. The crew had run out of fuel, food and water. Regina provided the small crew new rations and water before sending them on their way.

As the ship charted a course for home, they made goodwill visits along the way. Orphanages in Malaysia and the Philippines received a helping hand from crew members, who visited with the children and provided a work party to fix up the establishments.

“Our sailors really excel as outstanding representatives of Canada and were great ambassadors in the ports we stopped in. They reached deep in their pockets while visiting kids who had very unfortunate standards of living, and I am really proud of them,” said Cdr Boyd.

Once Regina is home, it will undergo a maintenance period, and then eventually enter the Halifax Class Modernization/Frigate Life Extension for a year and a half.

Cdr Boyd will relinquish his bridge chair to Cdr Dan Charlebois this summer for the command position at the Naval Officer Training Centre (NOTC) Venture.

-Shelley Lipke, Staff Writer

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