Winnipeg milestone celebrated at sea

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The crew of HMCS Winnipeg gathers on the flight deck to celebrate the ship’s 20th anniversary during Operation Caribbe on June 23.

For many sailors, celebrating a birthday at sea is not always their first choice to mark the occasion.

However, for a warship such as HMCS Winnipeg, celebrating its 20th birthday June 23, there was no better way to mark the occasion than on the ocean.

“Although at-sea traditions have changed over the years, the operational tenacity of the ship and its crew has not,” said Cdr Pascal Belhumeur, Winnipeg’s Commanding Officer.

“In this, its 20th year of service, Winnipeg will spend the next eight months as the forward deployed vanguard unit, along with the Royal Canadian Navy’s first deployed Enhanced Naval Boarding Party Team, and its embarked CH-124 Sea King.”

Winnipeg and its crew are currently conducting surveillance operations in support of Operation Caribbe, Canada’s participation in the multinational campaign against illicit trafficking by transnational organized crime in the Caribbean Sea and the eastern Pacific Ocean.

They are also en route to Operation Reassurance, Canada’s contribution to NATO assurance measures in Central and Eastern Europe.

The ship’s company celebrated the occasion with a Banyan (barbeque) and a birthday cake that was cut by the command team with three traditional naval swords that are used on ceremonial occasions and celebrations.

Despite the ship’s dress regulations, one crew member connected with the ship’s history by wearing a t-shirt that was issued to the crew when the ship was commissioned on June 23, 1995.

“When I was departing my last job, a colleague gifted me with this shirt, hoping to pass on some of the HMCS Winnipeg legacy he helped build,” said Lt(N) Dusan Brestovansky, assistant combat systems engineer officer.

“I was honoured when he explained the history behind it, and even though it’s a little worn, I could see that his time on board Winnipeg meant a lot to him and that this shirt represented those good memories. This goes to show that HMCS Winnipeg’s history has had an impact on the lives of people throughout Canada.”

In Winnipeg’s 20 years of service to Canada, the ship has participated in various multinational and domestic operations including Operation Apollo, Operation Altair, Operation Caribbe, Operation Sextant, Operation Allied Protector and Operation Podium.

Some of the ship’s career highlights include the successful disruption of piracy operations off the coast of Somalia in April 2009 and the interception of illegal migrants off the coast of British Columbia in August 2010.

As the ship celebrates its 20th birthday while supporting international Canadian Armed Forces operations, the ship’s company continues to perform in a way that embodies the ship’s motto: One with the strength of many.

SLt Jamie Tobin
HMCS Winnipeg

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