ESQUIMALT, B.C. - The chief of Canada's defence staff, Gen. Tom Lawson, was on the deck of HMCS Regina Monday to wish more than 250 sailors a safe- and-successful, eight-month, counter-terrorism mission on the Arabian Sea.
The Halifax-class frigate, which includes a CH-124 Sea King helicopter detachment, is participating in Operation ARTEMIS, a multinational effort to support security and counter-terrorism operations in the region known for smugglers, drug traffickers, pirates and terrorists.
Lawson told the sailors to make Canada proud as they participate in an international task force to provide more security in the area, especially vessels travelling the Horn of Africa.
Recently, HMCS Toronto seized 500 kilograms of cocaine, street-valued at $100 million, during a bust on the Indian Ocean.
Lawson said HMCS Regina is making its second mission to the area in less than a year.
"It's a counter-terrorism mission," he said. "Right now, Toronto is in there and on her way home. Regina was in before that and Regina's heading back with a fresh new crew to take on these duties."
Lawson said the Canadian ships are major players in the international force.
"The way they do that is they get to know the patterns of life over there and when they see something untoward they ask questions," he said.
"They board as required, and they've carried out a tremendous amount of efforts, counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism and represent Canada and the western world very well."
Before the frigate departed, crew and their family members shed tears and exchanged kisses and hugs during an emotional ceremony that also included the brass-band sounds of CFB Esquimalt's Naden Band.
Several noticeably pregnant women said they were hoping their partners would be granted leaves from the deployment so they could be home for the births.
Naomi Gillis, 23, said she is expecting her third child — a daughter — in April.
She said she supports her husband, Nathan Gillis, and his career as a radar operator, but she is looking forward to seeing him at the time of the birth.
"I'm excited for him about all the stuff he is going to see, but it sucks at the same time," she said. "I've got family here, so it will be OK."
HMCS Regina's Cmdr. Daniel Charlebois said he will try his best to grant leave to sailors on board whose partners are expecting, but he can't make any guarantees because the ship could be in the middle of an operation at any time.
"We'll make every effort to get a sailor home if his wife is expecting a child," he said.
Charlebois said about 10 per cent of the sailors on board the frigate, named after Saskatchewan's capital city, have Prairie roots, and the ship often flies the flag of the Saskatchewan Roughriders while refuelling at sea.