Helicopter crew member’s journey to sea

443 MH Squadron.

443 MH Squadron.

Sgt Ryan Harpell
443 MH Squadron, HMCS Winnipeg

This journey began many months before ever stepping foot on the deck of HMCS Winnipeg and sailing away for a four-month deployment on Operations Neon and Projection.

It began in the summer of 2020 when I received news I would be the next Air Detachment Sergeant from the squadron in line for deployment.

The months of pre-deployment planning began, which included pulling together maintenance team members and officially standing up the Air Detachment.

With work ups behind us, I packed up my bag of kit and personal items and boarded Winnipeg. I brought so much stuff I wondered where it would go; but it’s amazing how much you can fit it these tiny lockers.

I said goodbye to my family on the flight line at 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron, and boarded the Cyclone, which would embark with Winnipeg for the deployment. That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks. This is real, I am leaving my life behind for the next few months.

The first few weeks at sea took some getting used to it. The movement, small beds, showers, just about everything is different from a normal day to day on land.

As air force, I came in thinking the navy routine and culture would be tough to understand. But the sailors have been amazing at making the air detachment feel welcome and embracing us as part of the ship’s family.

Sometimes there are long hours and trying days that push me to my limit. Then the helicopter lifts off the deck and disappears out of sight on a mission. The hours pass by, and then I finally see it break the horizon. The wheels touch down on the flight deck, and I get that friendly nod. Another day of flying is complete and my crew, my air force family is home. We have accomplished our mission.

I have been truly fortune to have this team around me:

MWO Kevin Bell, MCpl Matthew Coling, MCpl Dan Doucet, MCpl Josh Dunn, Cpl Tyler Doyle, Cpl Rob Bracey, Cpl Darcie Cudney, Cpl Jorgen Gleerup, Cpl Ivan Ponomarev, Cpl Chris Campagna, Cpl Andrew Hamilton, Maj. Liam Doyle, Capt Cory Proulx, Capt Dan Schade, Capt Joe (Buzz saw) Anderson, Capt Ross Collison, Capt John Jacob, MCpl Chris Gray and MCpl Sean Lothian.

The road to get here would have never happened without the strongest person I know, my wife Megan. She is the rock of our family and has supported me every step of the way for this deployment and my military career. To my boys Carter and Oliver and my daughter Shelby, I miss you every second of the day. I love you all to the moon and back. Papa Bear will see you soon.


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