HALIFAX – Hundreds of loved ones gathered on the deck of HMCS Charlottetown on Sunday morning to bid farewell to sailors bound for the Mediterranean Sea.
The frigate, with some 250 sailors, left Halifax under sunny skies to embark on a six-month counter-terrorism mission.
The Charlottetown is part of NATO’s Operation Active Endeavour and will be tracking, boarding and reporting on ships believed to be involved in terrorism.
That’s the anti-terrorism operation that was launched in October 2001 in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.
Cmdr. Wade Carter said he doesn’t anticipate a significant amount of risk during the mission, but the crew is also trained to react to a crisis if necessary.
“We’ll be patrolling the Mediterranean looking for weapons of mass destruction or constituents that could be used to design such things,” said Carter.
“We are ready to deploy on behalf of the Government of Canada if they direct us to proceed to any type of mission, but I have no specific mission at this time related to any nation.”
Carter said most of the seafarers in the area of the Mediterranean are law-abiding and mostly compliant to ship checks.
He said the Charlottetown will not be stationed in any one area, but rather patrol throughout the sea.
Sub-lieutenant Eric Melady, 29, and Mary Melady, 25, got hitched Saturday in their basement after realizing he might not make it home for their wedding, which had been planned for June.
“With a little bit of uncertainty of whether or not I would be able to be flown home… we just decided to get married yesterday,” Eric Melady said in good cheer.
With about four hours of planning, the couple called a few friends and a justice of the peace and were married by dinner time.
The couple plan to have a reception upon his return.
A few dry eyes could be seen as families and loved ones were asked to say their final goodbyes and leave the deck at about 9:30 a.m.
As the vessel pulled out of a relatively calm harbour, sailors lined up at the edge of the ship and waved hands and ball caps above their heads.
Onlookers waved back, some clutching tissues and tiny Canada flags.
In September, HMCS Charlottetown and a different crew returned to Halifax from Libya as a part of Canada’s contribution to the NATO-led mission to enforce a no-fly zone over the country.
In June, the warship came under fire from about 12 rockets launched from shore, but the vessel wasn’t hit. A few months earlier, it was fired on by small fast-attack boats but sustained no damage.