HMCS Fredericton departs Halifax to join ‘Operation Reassurance’ in Mediterranean

It was a tough weekend for the friends and family of the crew onboard HMCS Fredericton.

The Halifax-class frigate and its 256 members have set sail for European waters as part of Canada’s NATO commitments.

There were many hugs and tears as families gathered at the Halifax dockyard to bid farewell as the ship sailed out of the harbour for a six-month deployment.

HMCS Fredericton gets ready to depart Halifax on January 22nd, 2023. Skye Bryden-Blom / Global News

The Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic says sailors will be working with NATO allies for several months under “Operation Reassurance.”

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“Fredericton will join the group that’s in the Mediterranean,” Rear-Admiral Brian Santarpia says. “They will be a constant presence in the Mediterranean, tracking all Russian activity there.”

He says since the invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago, their work has taken on a heightened sense of urgency.

“Each ship that goes now has to be more ready than they were before that invasion, obviously, because the threat is higher,” he says.

Santarpia says a six-month deployment can be tough on sailors and their families.

“They’re really proud of their family members who are doing something important for Canada, something challenging, just exactly what they signed up to do,” he says. “And on the other side of the coin, they know they’re going to miss their family members.”

HMCS Fredericton crewmember Patrick Brouwer and his wife Nichole. Skye Bryden-Blom / Global News

For HMCS Fredericton crewmember Patrick Brouwer and his wife Nichole, the mission will mark the longest time they’ve spent apart.

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“They’ll be some big things that we miss, but we’re going to miss each other the most,” Patrick says.

His wife adds it’s about enjoying the little things when they’re together.

“We can always make up memories for the days that we miss — like, we’re missing both of our birthdays and our first wedding anniversary,” she says. “But that’s part of what happens when you have a spouse in the military.”

Andrew Tunstall gathered with his family just before stepping on the vessel for the voyage.

HMCS Fredericton crew member Andrew Tunstall gathered with his family just before stepping on the vessel for the voyage. Skye Bryden-Blom / Global News

He says it’s hard to say goodbye to his two young daughters and wife.

“A bit of mixed emotions,” he says. “But at the same time, we’re going off to do a mission that everyone has been practicing and training for for a long time. So there’s some excitement about that.”

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As HMCS Fredericton departed, loved ones raced to the end of the jetty to catch their last glimpse of the ship and their families.

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