HMCS Halifax departs for six-month Operation REASSURANCE deployment

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Navy News / January 15, 2021

By Ryan Melanson

A new year brought a new mission for the ship’s company of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Halifax as it left its home port of Halifax on New Year’s Day to join Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1) as part of a six-month deployment to Operation REASSURANCE.

The departure marks the 15th consecutive deployment in support of the NATO assurance and deterrence mission in European waters, with Royal Canadian Navy ships maintaining a consistent presence since 2014.

Halifax will be operating with its NATO allies in Western and Northern European waters, set to conduct an intense program of operational patrols and training exercises, maintaining NATO’s presence in key regions while also building on its ability to work in concert with the multinational vessels that make up the SNMG1 task group.

“This is our commitment to our NATO partners: that we will continue to work with them, learn how to better work together, and assure them that Canada will be a committed partner now and into the future,” said Commander (Cdr) Chris Rochon, Halifax’s Commanding Officer, while speaking to media prior to departing.

He was accompanied by Commodore (Cmdre) Bradley Peats, who will be joining the ship in Europe as Canada assumes command of SNMG1 for the duration of the deployment. Cmdre Peats will take over as Commander SNMG1, while Halifax will serve as the task group flagship, replacing the Portuguese Navy ship Corte-Real.

It’s an exciting time for HMCS Halifax, but it’s also an anxious time for sailors and their families, Cdr Rochon added. The unique nature of the deployment was accentuated by the lack of family members at the jetty for the send-off, with COVID-19 restrictions barring the usual large gathering.

The ship has been planning extensively since March, and without downplaying the legitimate worries and risks associated with the pandemic, Cdr Rochon said he’s confident his crew will be kept safe and healthy.

“COVID challenged us to adjust our training, technical and personnel management in ways we would have never imagined. In the face of this challenge, this team has thrived and succeeded.”

For the majority of sailors, the biggest change will be the lack of alongside visits through the six-month trip. Getting off ship and exploring foreign ports is typically a big bonus on this type of extended deployment, and has been made impossible due to the global nature of the pandemic. This means spending even more time on board, said Petty Officer 1st Class Joyce Farmer, who put a positive spin on the situation.

“We’ll be very enclosed, but as a navy family we are going to have to keep ourselves entertained,” she said. “We’re going to work out, get to know each other (and) keep in touch with our families.”

HMCS Halifax will join its SNMG1 allies in the coming days, and Canada will officially assume command of the task group following a ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal on January 18, 2021.