HMCS Montreal departs for six-month deployment

The crew line the deck as HMCS Montreal sails away on deployment.

Ryan Melanson
Trident Newspaper

The Royal Canadian Navy’s Atlantic Fleet has begun its first deployment of the New Year, with HMCS Montreal departing Halifax Jan.19 to join NATO colleagues in Northern Europe as part of Operation Reassurance.

As has become the norm due to the pandemic, ship and crew, along with the embarked CH-148 Cyclone Helicopter Air Detachment, slipped away quietly without a large gathering at the jetty, having said goodbye to their families days earlier before beginning a hotel quarantine to reduce the risk of COVID-19 cases.

But despite these  not ideal conditions, and the extra stress brought on by the worsening pandemic, Montreal’s Commanding Officer said he’s impressed by the high spirits among his ship’s company, who have all been looking forward to completing the isolation and testing requirements and getting down to business.

“The crew is ready to go and all of us want to get on with it. There’s been so much preparation leading up to this point, and now the crew is eager to get going out the door and get this mission started,” said Commander Chris Devita.

The majority of the team came together on board Montreal last August, and have since been working nonstop, bringing a ship that hasn’t sailed in more than two years up to the required readiness levels.

“We started as a group of individuals, and now we are truly a cohesive ship’s company. I’ve never been more proud – these folks have dug deeper, found success where it wasn’t always expected, and they’ve shown a great positive attitude all along.”

Another round of COVID-19 testing followed after the ship after it left its homeport, and despite the rise in cases attributed to the Omicron variant of the disease, Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) officials are confident in the strict protocols that have kept the virus at bay. The COVID-19 situation will also be examined closely during any port visits, and it’s likely sailors will be required to stay on board the ship or in the vicinity of the jetty during any stops.

“We have a very high confidence that we can keep our sailors safe on board during the mission,” said RAdm Brian Santarpia, Commander Maritime Forces Atlantic.

While this is the first time Montreal has deployed to Op Reassurance, the RCN has been supporting the mission since the summer of 2014, and Montreal’s departure marks the beginning of the 16th rotation of the deployment for Halifax-class frigates. HMCS Fredericton, the most recent ship to deploy to Op Reassurance, returned to Halifax in December after five months with Standing NATO Maritime Group Two.

This consistent NATO presence in the Mediterranean and Black Sea provides security and assurances to allies in the region, and began as a response to Russian aggression in 2014. Activities for Montreal while at sea will include surveillance and monitoring, as well as training focused on interoperability with allies.

Along with the importance of the mission and fulfilling Canada’s NATO obligations, Cdr Devita said he was also excited for his crew, particularly the junior members, to take in the range of experiences, challenges and successes that come with a major overseas deployment.

“This is crucial for career progression. This is the chance to take everything you learn in your training, and actually put it to use in a practical setting. I can’t wait to see what we’re capable of.”


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