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Ships depart Halifax on NATO mission to demine North Atlantic, Baltic Sea.

HMCS Summerside
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A sailor aboard HMCS Summerside says a final goodbye to family members ahead of departing to the Baltic Sea and North Atlantic.

Hugs, laughs and a few tears filled the Halifax dockyard Sunday morning as Her Majesty’s HMCS Kingston and Summerside began their four-month venture to the Baltic Sea and North Atlantic.

Both ships will take part in Operation Reassurance, NATO’s response to curtail Russian aggression in the Baltics. They will be a part of a NATO mine countermeasures group.

“We’ve been training for months and I think the crew’s all ready to go,” said Sub.-Lt. Hank Kieser of HMCS Kingston. “Certainly going to miss my girl here but ultimately we’re really excited.”

It’s the first deployment for both ships, as well as many sailors on board.

“A whole whirlwind of emotions. Feeling mostly excited, a little bit nervous,” said Sub.-Lt. Breanna Miller of HMCS Kingston. “Just excited to get going at this point.”

“I’m excited but I’m nervous,” said Sub.-Lt. Sydney Owens of HMCS Kingston. “I’m excited to see all the places we’re going to go to and get to see new things.”

Even for more experienced sailors, the departure never gets easier.

“Ready to go do the job, but … it’s going to be a tough one this time,” said Petty officer (second class) Cecil Allen of HMCS Kingston. “This will be my first major deployment with the third one being so young, so it’s a whole new set of challenges.”

The mission comes after HMCS Halifax was sent on a six-month mission in March, in the weeks that followed the first aggressive actions from Russia towards Ukraine.

Capt. Julian Elbourne, the chief of staff for commander of Maritime Forces Pacific, says HMCS Summerside’s specialized diving team will be supported by the mine searching capabilities via autonomous underwater vehicles aboard HMCS Kingston.

“I think it’s a very important mission,” said Capt. Elbourne. “Both these ships are going to go join the northern group and they’ll participate in exercises and mine countermeasure removal and destruction.

“Mines are a big deal … so building these skills and working with our partners is a super important mission.”

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Back at the Halifax dockyard jetty, sounds of the Royal Canadian Navy’s Stadacona Band filled the air. Though family members were sad to see their loved ones go, many were left with an overwhelming sense of pride.

“It’s sad to see her go, but I’m really excited,” said Shauna Owens, Sydney Owens’ mother. “She’s with a great crew, so I know she’ll be in good hands.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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