Sailors aboard two Canadian navy ships arrived in Haiti yesterday to start “doing what we do.”

“Everyone is pumped,” said Lt.-Cmdr. Graham Roberts, who spoke to Metro by phone yesterday afternoon from the HMCS Athabaskan. “There’s a lot of destruction and a lot of grief here. But I can tell you everyone is quite motivated to do as much as they can.”

Roberts said at first light yesterday the 500 sailors aboard HMCS Athabaskan and HMCS Halifax got down to work to help a country ravaged by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake last week.

He said up to 200 soldiers left the ships and made landfall to participate in what the Canadian military is terming humanitarian service support. Yesterday, that included clearing rubble at a medical facility in Leogane, which is about 64 kilometres southwest of the Haiti capital of Port-au-Prince.

HMCS Athabaskan is docked about one mile off of Leogane, while HMCS Halifax is docked near Jacmel, a town that was cut off from the rest of the country since the devastating earthquake.

Roberts said 78 crew members from HMCS Halifax cleared a Jacmel road yesterday to allow heavy equipment into town and also began working to do the same at the airport.

“Very well,” Roberts said when asked how the soldiers have been received by the Haiti people. “There have been no concerns with the crew. They understand we’re there to help. They’ve been very welcoming.”

HMCS Halifax and HMCS Athabaskan pulled away from the Halifax dockyards last Thursday. The ships are scheduled to remain in Haiti for at least a month, meaning a lot of long days and hard work ahead for the crew members.

“This is what we train for all the time,” Roberts said. “Although we hate to do it for real, this is what we’re here for.”