HMCS Halifax departs to join Operation Reassurance

April 5, 2022 - Royal Canadian Navy

By Joanie Veitch

As the crew of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Halifax readied for its mission to join Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) in northern Europe, Commander (Cdr) Dale St. Croix said he and the ship’s company felt buoyed by the support they’ve received from both colleagues and the general public.

“We’ve received a lot of encouragement from people and politicians to business leaders, all telling us they’re proud of what we’re doing. It’s been very touching,” said Cdr St. Croix, Commanding Officer of HMCS Halifax.

On February 22, 2022, the Federal Government announced that Halifax would join HMCS Montréal on Operation Reassurance, to provide additional military support to NATO operations in Central and Eastern Europe. 

HMCS Montréal is currently with Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 in the Mediterranean region, having left on its scheduled deployment January 19.

HMCS Halifax had been scheduled to deploy to Operation Artemis in the Middle East in April, the ship was re-tasked to Operation Reassurance instead, leaving on March 19 with a crew of 253 on board.

Over 200 family members were on the jetty waving goodbye, with masking and other restrictions still in place. It was the largest gathering to send off a ship from Halifax since restrictions were put in place in March 2020 to limit the spread of Covid-19. 

While past deployments saw Canadian warships involved in a wide range of multinational NATO exercises over the course of their six-month stint, the war in Ukraine has made the schedule of activities on this deployment much less certain.

Their main focus, Cdr St. Croix said, will be on combat readiness operations within the greater mission, as well as providing general security, including search and rescue operations and any needed humanitarian assistance.

HMCS Halifax trains off the coast of Nova Scotia in preparation for the ship’s deployment on Op Reassurance.

HMCS Halifax trains off the coast of Nova Scotia in preparation for the ship’s deployment on Op Reassurance.

Cdr Dale St.Croix is the commanding officer of HMCS Halifax.

Cdr Dale St.Croix is the commanding officer of HMCS Halifax.

“Any time there are people on the move in large numbers there’s a concern from a Navy perspective for any incidents at sea with people in unseaworthy ships. It’s always something you prepare for,” he said.

The main goal, he added, is to be present “to assure our NATO allies that we’re ready to respond should anything occur.”

While there are inherent risks with any mission for members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the situation following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 has made this deployment feel different than previous iterations of Operation Reassurance, both for the crew and their loved ones at home, said Cdr St. Croix. 

While everyone in the ship’s company is feeling that tension, Cdr St. Croix said he’s impressed with how well the crew has pulled together to get ready for the mission.

“There is a lot of political instability in eastern Europe right now. We have prepared the crew for any tasking. Hopefully the situation will be resolved diplomatically, but in the meantime, we have to remain vigilant and remain at a high level of readiness.”

Before the warship arrives in the Baltic region in early April, the crew will conduct extra training activities, primarily working with the embarked helicopter air detachment.

“We are at a level of high readiness, but with this final training we’ll be able to refine our skills, so we’re even more prepared by the time we arrive,” St. Croix said.

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