HMCS Harry DeWolf crew wraps up first successful AOPS deployment
By Ryan Melanson,
After more than four months away from home taking part in Operations NANOOK and CARIBBE, the ship’s company of HMCS Harry DeWolf arrived back in Halifax on December 16 with a lot to celebrate. They not only completed successful back-to-back missions in completely different climates, they did so as the very first crew to deploy with the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) new class of Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS).
For Sailor First Class Luc Gillis, the historic sail marked a clear highlight of his RCN career so far, getting to put his training to work as Harry DeWolf transited through Canada’s Arctic region and connected with local communities before moving on to port visits on the west coasts of Canada and the United States, circumnavigating the continent to reach Caribbean waters and help combat illicit trafficking.
“I am so proud to have been part of this circumnavigation deployment, this is something I know I will tell my kids about when I’m older,” said S1 Gillis, a Naval Communicator and Gunner who comes to the ship from his home unit HMCS Griffin in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
It was a mission that brought near constant excitement for all involved, but also challenging tasks to be completed every day. After spending the previous year working tirelessly to prepare in the difficult pandemic environment, every member maintained that same professionalism and dedication over the past four months, said Commander Corey Gleason, HMCS Harry DeWolf’s Commanding Officer.
“During Operation NANOOK, my sailors spent 61 days at sea straight, and the port visits we conducted to visit our affiliate communities were all working ports,” he said, describing the heavy workload for his personnel that came alongside the overwhelmingly positive experience in the Arctic.
Following Op NANOOK, the ship’s rest and maintenance period on the west coast was hardly a break; the crew was kept busy with repair work and a heavy schedule of tours to help introduce the newest class of Canadian warship to colleagues and the public. They then shifted gears, prepared the vessel to operate in a warmer environment, and followed up with their second operational deployment to Op CARIBBE. Working alongside the U.S. Coast Guard, the ship assisted in two successful at-sea drug busts, on November 8 and November 18, resulting in the seizure of approximately 2,600 kilograms of cocaine.
“This is no small feat – the crew had to come together to write, implement and then run standard operating procedures for this type of vessel on Operation CARIBBE,” Cdr Gleason noted, pointing out that the operation marked yet another “first” for Harry DeWolf.
“ I am beyond proud of my sailors and their achievements over this circumnavigation of North America.”
Harry DeWolf’s Coxswain, CPO1 Ginette Seguin, echoed those comments about the crew. She joined the ship earlier this year, entering a tight-knit group, some of whom have been with the unit since before construction on the ship was even completed. This led to a collaborative, “all hands on deck” approach that exemplifies the best of what the Navy can be, she said.
“One of the best feelings as a COXN is when you see everyone gathering and helping each other out, to get the job done without even having to pipe it. “
And S1 Gillis added that – “We’ve had many trials and tribulations we experienced together as we brought this ship online. It definitely brought us together, and made us a stronger family.”
Despite the years of work leading up to the deployment, this mission was only the beginning of the legacy that will be built by the Harry DeWolf class. With the second AOPS, HMCS Margaret Brooke, currently conducting sea trials, and HMCS Max Bernays not far behind, Cdr Gleason said he’s excited for the future of these ships, and eager to share everything he and his crew have learned.
“We have only begun to see what the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship class is capable of. I look forward to seeing what the next ships in this class improve upon and accomplish.’’