Operation Hestia - Haiti bound
Last April, Canada's first female commanding officer took the helm of the HMCS Halifax. Josee Kurtz has had several months to get comfortable on the big ship, and now she's steaming full-speed ahead again....this time, to Haiti.
The HMCS Halifax and her sister ship, the Athabaskan, set sail for the wrecked shores of Haiti on the 14th of January, and are expected to make port sometime on the 20th. They will be the second wave of Canadian humanitarian relief, and are loaded with tonnes of supplies and necessities.
A Canadian Disaster Assistance Relief Team (DART) was sent as an advance team of 20 personnel in a CF-130 Hercules aircraft - comprised of medically trained professionals and experts in assessing needs for relief, communications equipment and personnel, infrastructure engineers and search-and-rescue equipment. It was the data reported from this team that outlined where the frigates will need to be stationed to accomplish the most.
The Canadian Forces have also announced that a C-17 military transport aircraft carrying a Griffon helicopter and other equipment and personnel will be deployed. That aircraft can also be used for evacuation.
The crew has been attending trainings since they left port, and have learned how to use rescue and engineering equipment like the Jaws Of Life, blow torches, and chain saws. Sailors who already have had specialized training, like Fire Fighters, Hull Technicians, or Bosuns, are training cooks, radar operators, and electricians so they can all become 'First Responders'. No one will just have one job during this operation - everyone will be doing whatever they can do.
Not content to just do their part, and heartsick over the images and reports that have been received, some of the sailors organized a toy and clothing drive within the ship. Walmart donated $7000 worth of clothes, and between that and what the crew have brought in, they have an entire cabin stuffed full of donations.
The mood on board now grows somber as the ship draws nearer to Haiti. Many sailors have never been there or aren't sure what to expect, and the few that have tell of gangs and poverty. All the crew has been organized into work parties and security teams, and these last few hours will be spent checking and double-checking everything so they can help as soon as they get there.
They will be working in extreme conditions, but are confident that with their training, the mental and physical health of each soldier will be protected. They cannot wait to begin providing tangible and meaningful relief to the affected people of Haiti.
Sail on, HCMS Halifax. Sior Gasgeil. Ever Brave.