The Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) Kingston-class coastal defence vessels, HMCS Edmonton (MM 703) and HMCS Whitehorse (MM 705) departed their home port of CFB Esquimalt, B.C., on Feb. 16, 2018, for the 12th iteration of Operation CARIBBE.
Operation CARIBBE is the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) contribution to the elimination of illegal trafficking in the Caribbean Sea and the eastern Pacific Ocean by organized crime. The operation began in 2006 and its mandate has been altered twice since then.
Under this operation, Canada sends CAF ships and aircraft to help Operation MARTILLO, a multi-national anti drug operation that began on 15 January 2012 and aims to combat international drug trafficking, enhance regional security, and promote peace, stability and prosperity throughout Central and South America. Operation MARTILLO is commanded by the United States Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-South), based in Key West, Florida.
Last year the Canada contributed to the U.S. Coast Guard’s (USCG) seizing or disrupting approximately 11.5 metric tonnes of illicit drugs.
The Commanding Officer of Edmonton, Lieutenant-Commander Brian Henwood, is looking forward to heading south to conduct interdiction operations. “This is a great opportunity to get over the horizon and to effect things down range,” he says.
LCdr Collin Forsberg, Commanding Officer of Whitehorse, agrees with him, saying the operation has a real impact on the people back home. “It is very rewarding working with the USCG. This is a mission that makes life better for Canadians.” LCdr Forsberg has deployed twice before on this operation.
Recently, Rear-Admiral Art McDonald, Commander, Maritime Forces Pacific, spoke to media in San Diego, Calif., during the offload of cocaine seized in the last two months of operations in 2017.
“Just as today’s offload represents a part of the record almost 500,000 pounds that was interdicted in 2017, worth about $6.6 billion U.S., a part of today’s offload is also a direct involvement of Canadian participation.”
At the end of a ship’s deployment, the USCG tallies up the amount of drugs seized or disrupted by each ship and awards them with crossed out snowflakes to add to their bridge wings. The snowflakes serve to recognize hard work and instill a sense of pride in the ship’s company.
With a fresh paint job, Whitehorse departs home port with a bare bridge wing, while Edmonton proudly wears seven snowflakes earned on previous deployments. The objectives of the upcoming mission are clear and there seems to be no hint of rivalry between the commanding officers.
“We are down there to support each other,” says LCdr Henwood. “One ship’s success is a success for the team.”
HMCS Edmonton (703)
HMCS Edmonton is a Kingston-class coastal defence vessel that has served in the Canadian Forces since 1997. Edmonton is the fourth ship of its class, all of which were built for the Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel Project.
The ship is the first vessel to use the designation HMCS Edmonton. The ship is assigned to Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) and is homeported at CFB Esquimalt.
HMCS Whitehorse (705)
HMCS Whitehorse is a Kingston-class coastal defence vessel that has served in the Canadian Forces since 1998. Whitehorse is the sixth ship of her class which is the name for the Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel Project.
The first vessel named for the city in the Yukon, the ship is assigned to Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) and is homeported at CFB Esquimalt.