HMCS Calgary honoured for record drug seizures

HMCS Calgary

Rear Admiral Christopher Robinson presents a Command Commendation certificate to Commander Adriano Lozer (centre) HMCS Calgary Commanding Officer, Chief Petty Officer First Class Armand Reelick, Coxswain. Photo: Peter Mallett/Lookout

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer

HMCS Calgary received a rare recognition for drug-seizing efforts during Operation Artemis 2021.

Commander Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) awarded the ship with a Canadian Forces Unit Commendation for halting 33,573 kilograms of illicit narcotics in Middle Eastern waters.

“With skill and tenacity, Calgary delivered a significant blow to the financial sources that support terrorist organizations,” said Rear-Admiral (RAdm) Chris Robinson, Commander MARPAC, during the Sept. 29 ceremony.

RAdm Robinson said Calgary’s efforts halted the flow of 33,573 kilograms of illicit narcotics worth more than US$95 million (equivalent to C$130 million) local wholesale value, impacting revenue streams of global terrorist and criminal organizations, and lessening the burden associated with these narcotics on societies world-wide.

On Apr. 23, 2021, Calgary seized 1,286 kilograms of heroin, which ranks the largest heroin bust in Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) history, eclipsing a previous record heroin seizure set by Australian warship HMAS Darwin in 2014 off Mombasa, Kenya.

While deployed in support of Canada’s response to terrorism, HMCS Calgary demonstrated exceptional professionalism while conducting maritime interdiction operations.

“HMCS Calgary’s efforts greatly enhanced Canada’s standing as a valued partner in defence,” RAdm Robinson said.

During his remarks, RAdm Robinson noted that a Canadian Forces Unit Commendation for a ship during deployment is rare and an occasion to celebrate. He also said the award had little to do with the ship or the narcotics but more with the people.

“This award is more about the sacrifice and dedication, the long time away from home, and the loneliness of serving Canada in a very remote part of the world,” RAdm Robinson said. He encouraged the ship’s newer members to take pride in the work of their predecessors.

The crew of the Halifax-class frigate gathered at the Graving Dock while RAdm Robinson presented the certificate to Commander (Cdr) Adriano Lozer, Calgary’s Commanding Officer.

Calgary’s former commanding officer Captain (Navy) Mark O’Donohue said deploying at the height of COVID-19 made last year’s seven-month deployment unique.

“We started the operation strong and finished it strong, and that built momentum, contributed to moral, and helped our people see tangible results,” he said.

Notwithstanding the global COVID-19 pandemic and extreme environmental conditions, the ship’s company completed 21 boarding operations resulting in 17 seizures of illicit narcotics.

Calgary will not participate in deployments soon as the ship enters an extended work period as part of its five-year operational cycle. Currently, Calgary is under a deep maintenance cycle in Dry Dock at the Fleet Maintenance Facility (FMF) Cape Breton. In January 2023, it is expected to transfer to Victoria Ship Yards Ltd. for a year of repairs and maintenance work.

HMCS Calgary

His Majesty’s Canadian Ship Calgary’s Unit Commendation coin awarded by the General Wayne Eyre, Chief of Defense Staff. Photo: Sailor First Class Mike Goluboff, MARPAC Imaging Services

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