Winnipeg-raised navy members contribute to record-breaking heroin bust

Lieutenant (Navy) Steve Dyck and Petty Officer First Class Ryan Hart on board HMCS Calgary during Operation Projection.

Lieutenant (Navy) Steve Dyck and Petty Officer First Class Ryan Hart on board HMCS Calgary during Operation Projection.

Capt Jeff Klassen
HMCS Calgary PAO

They’re two of the toughest guys in the Royal Canadian Navy. One was originally going to be an underwater archeologist. The other, a bass clarinetist.

Instead, Lieutenant (Navy) Steve Dyck and Petty Officer First Class Ryan Hart joined the navy and are now part of HMCS Calgary’s counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operation in the Arabian Sea.

Calgary arrived in the Combined Maritime Forces area of operations as a part of Canada’s Operation Artemis on April 15. Artemis is the Canadian Armed Forces mission to help stop terrorism and make Middle Eastern waters more secure.

The two sailors are members of the ship’s Naval Tactical Operations Group (NTOG) boarding team – call sign Reef. Reef directly contributed to the ship’s recent seizures, including 1,286 kilograms of heroin, the biggest heroin bust in Operation Artemis’ history.

“Operation Artemis is the NTOG operator’s Holy Grail,” says PO1 Hart. “This is what every NTOG operator fights to do. This is putting all the hard work that every operator has gone through, from the selection process and right through all the training, to get to the level that my team is at right now. This is what NTOG was designed to do, this specific mission. We are so ready for this.”

Lt(N) Dyck was born in Swan River but grew up on Eaglemount Crescent in Winnipeg’s Linden Woods neighbourhood. He worked at Toledo Food Service as he made his way through Kelvin High School in River Heights. After graduating, he obtained an anthropology degree from the University of Manitoba and worked at maritime museums in Florida and Bermuda, and then as a professional shipwreck diver conducting research and salvage.

He joined the navy in 2013 because he had a “pretty solid five-year plan” to gain experience and then retire early as an underwater archeologist. However, during his early career sails he worked alongside NTOG members and it influenced him to change his path to become one in 2016.

“I was pretty intrigued seeing a group of highly motivated individuals working as a team and bringing a new skillset to the navy, something that could have a direct impact in the world,” says Lt(N) Dyck, who is now Reef’s team leader.

PO1 Ryan Hart grew up in Selkirk, Manitoba, and then in the St. Boniface area of Winnipeg. His first love was music and after high school he went to the University of Manitoba and majored in bass clarinet. It took him one year to decide it wasn’t for him; so, he did a 180 and became a crane operator at the Gerdau Ameristeel steel plant in Selkirk. Seven years later he wanted more. He wanted to travel. His grandfather was in the British Royal Navy in the Second World War. In 2006, he followed in his footsteps and became a boatswain because he “liked the grunt work and doing the tough stuff.” He has traversed the circumference of the world with the navy and visited countless locations with various ships.

“I think about Selkirk quite a bit still. Every year I visit and on the drive from the airport I pass the rolling mill – that’s what we call the steel plant. I will always carry a piece of it with me,” he says.

PO1 Hart got into the NTOG tactical unit as the team’s first boat coxswain in 2014, and then as an operator in 2017. He is now the second-in-charge of Reef.

NTOG teams are not Special Forces, but they are a unique group in the navy and specialize in weapons use, hand-to-hand combat, rappelling, boarding ships, investigation techniques, intelligence gathering, and tactical mission planning.  Unlike some other sea trades, they normally work with different ships going from mission-to-mission around the world. They are a relatively new capability for the navy; people sometimes compare them to the American’s Navy Seals.

“We don’t use that comparison. Seals, Marines, and Canadian Special Forces operators are trained to a larger skillset. We are a small unit that mostly specializes in protecting a ship and maritime interdiction. However, I will say, we are incredibly good at the set of things we do,” says Lt(N) Dyck.

On Calgary’s current mission Lt(N) Dyck and PO1 Hart are, for the first time, able to really show what their team can do.

Calgary has had amazing success on its current operation. Within days of beginning patrols in April, the ship made its record-breaking heroin bust, the biggest in the history of Combined Maritime Forces followed by five more seizures.

“It’s amazing to be out here making a difference. I can’t stress that enough,” says Lt(N) Dyck.


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