From soccer games to sailing: Moncton and Goose Bay proud of West African deployment

April 5, 2022 - Royal Canadian Navy

From soccer games to sailing, crew members from Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Moncton and Goose Bay are proudly promoting maritime safety and security in West Africa, building relationships everywhere along the way.

The Kingston-class ships are currently working alongside partners and allies on Operation Projection West Africa and Exercise Obangame Express 22.

The mission includes strategic engagements with allies and regional nations, fostering relationships in maritime security. It aims to build on the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) ability to demonstrate to partner nations its readiness to effectively respond to a wide range of security threats, both abroad and at home.

But the sailors also take pride in giving back to local communities while in port, including playing the occasional soccer game with children.

“I have been waiting to do this deployment for five years,” said Sailor 1st Class (S1) Curtis Skinner, a Marine Technician aboard HMCS Moncton who has served 10 years in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), including six deployments. His current mission with HMCS Moncton marks his first to Africa.

Members of the Côte d'Ivoire Military conduct a simulated narcotics search aboard HMCS Moncton during Exercise Obangame Express as part of Operation Projection, off the coast of West Africa on March 14, 2022.

Members of the Côte d'Ivoire Military conduct a simulated narcotics search aboard HMCS Moncton during Exercise Obangame Express as part of Operation Projection, off the coast of West Africa on March 14, 2022.

“I wanted to see Africa,” he said. “Getting the opportunity to play soccer with local kids in Tema, Ghana, was an amazing experience. To see the happiness we brought to the children with something as simple as a pick-up game of soccer is the memory I’ll keep with me from this deployment.”

Some sailors have been here before, including S1 Chris Wannamaker, also serving in HMCS Moncton. With nine years of service, including three deployments to Africa, he welcomes the opportunity to work with allies and partners in the Gulf of Guinea region.

“Before I joined the RCN, I never had the opportunity to visit a continent like Africa,” said S1 Wannamaker. “Working alongside other nations to help promote security is not something that a lot of people get to do, so I’m extremely grateful for the experience.”

Both ships participated in Obangame Express, conducting maritime interdiction operations, as well as practising visiting, boarding, searching and seizure techniques with partners and allies. The exercise was led by U.S. Naval Forces Africa and is designed to improve cooperation amongst participating nations.

Sub-Lieutenant (SLt) Kathleen Wudrick can attest to how busy Goose Bay was during the exercise.

“On our first day, we were stationed off the coast of Benin in West Africa,” said SLt Wudrick. “Goose Bay was role-playing as a vessel smuggling oil. The Benin Navy came to our location, conducted a hailing exercise and eventually boarded us, searching for smuggled goods, which in this case was oil.”

The second day of the exercise saw Goose Bay stationed off the coast of Ghana where the Ghanaian Navy conducted boarding exercises, with one of its helicopters assisting.

In other missions, Moncton served as a target ship while helping the Togolese Navy simulate a human trafficking vessel boarding, while Goose Bay worked with the Nigerian Navy to develop a greater knowledge and understanding of operating conditions within the Gulf of Guinea region.

“I was very impressed with the professionalism and seamanship shown by the Nigerian Navy when we conducted a fleet manoeuvring exercise with them,” said S1 Cedric Meehan. “The Nigerians were on the ball, and the manoeuvring went off without a hitch, finishing with all the ships involved manning the rails and cheering each ship on as we conducted a sail past.”

Moncton and Goose Bay also worked closely with the Ghanaian Navy on numerous other exercises, helping to strengthen ties and improve their ability to successfully work together on multinational operations and missions.

During their time in the region, the ships will also conduct cooperative deployments with partner navies, including Italy, Denmark and the United States.

HMCS Moncton recently trained alongside the Italian Naval Vessel Luigi Rizzo, where the crew conducted a passing exercise using light signals communications, sailing in close proximity to one another to enhance naval cooperation.

In addition to the Kingston-class ships deployed, there is a shore-based contingent conducting training and capacity-building through CAF liaison officers, a Naval Tactical Operations Group, and a Maritime Operations Centre mentorship team.

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