NEWS

HMCS Charlottetown return to Halifax sees special reunion

09/11/2012 02:16 EDT | Updated 11/11/2012 05:12 EST
HMCS Charlottetown returned to Halifax today after almost nine months at sea, as hundreds of family members and loved ones gathered at the jetty to greet them.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay was among the people welcoming the frigate and its crew of 250 back to their home port at about 10 a.m. AT.

"It hasn't been easy," said Jamie MacLean, who was waiting for her partner, Leading Seaman Brent Hillier.

"I have some pretty awesome friends, luckily. Two of them actually have spouses who are also on the Charlottetown, so we've been a pretty good support system for each other. It's been tough."

Shortly after Hillier, a marine engineer, disembarked the ship, he got down on one knee and proposed to MacLean, who accepted.

"I'm shaking," she told CBC News seconds after the proposal. "I'm overwhelmed. I'm just trying not to cry."

It was a happy reunion for the couple, who hadn't seen each other since Jan. 8, when HMCS Charlottetown departed to join Operation Active Endeavour, the NATO counterterrorism mission in the Mediterranean Sea. It stayed there until April, when it is was assigned to the Arabian Sea region in another international counterterrorism role.

HMCS Charlottetown and the crew spent approximately 247 days at sea, making it one of the longest deployments in recent Canadian naval history.

Master Seaman Aaron Reid, who was selected as the first sailor to greet his wife and family, said he could see them waiting at the jetty as it pulled into sight.

"I've been shaking since I could see them. Really excited to be home," he said.

Seized hundreds of kilograms of drugs

The ship travelled a total of 95,360 kilometres during its mission, to eight ports:

- Souda Bay, Crete.

- Djibouti, Djibouti.

- Piraeus, Greece.

- Naples, Italy.

- Muscat, Oman.

- Salalah, Oman.

- Lisbon, Portugal.

- Taranto, Sicily.

One of the highlights of the ship's missions was the seizure of more than 270 kilograms of hashish off the coast of Yemen in May.

"They actually seized a lot of narcotics that were inevitably bound for Europe or North America," MacKay told CBC News.

"It is part of patrolling the high seas. We know that these are the super-highways that bring goods or services, in some cases threats to North American shores," he said. "So Canada is playing its part."

Cmdr. Wade Carter, the commanding officer of HMCS Charlottetown, spoke highly of the work his crew had done.

"When we arrived in the Arabian Sea, within a few days of being there, we located and intercepted a shipment of 240 kilograms of illegal narcotics and we subsequently destroyed that," he told CBC News on Tuesday.

"When you intercept those cargos and destroy them, you're taking money out of the hands of terrorists, so that's what we're effectively doing."

HMCS Regina replaced HMCS Charlottetown in the Arabian Sea region on Aug. 19.

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