I hope this letter finds you all in good spirits and enjoying a little repreive before we all get caught up in the holiday spirit. I write to you from Halifax where ATHABASKAN has just completed a Canada Command mission, Operation CARIBBE, deployed in support of the Joint interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S). Since I last wrote to you, ATHABASKAN has had a rewarding and impressive run; completing an extensive three month spring sailing schedule which included a NATO exercise off the Scottish coast, a fisheries patrol and a force generation trial with HMCS ST JOHN's off Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. This was followed by a breif five week interlude which consisted of a work period overlapped with summer leave, after which ATHABASKAN sailed in early August for the Caribbean to participate in exercise PANAMAX 2011 and Op CARIBBE. As you can imagine, it has been an extremely demanding yet rewarding year for the ship's compnay spending over 160 days away from home since March.
PANAMAX 2011 is a multinational exercise aimed at promoting interoperability between coalition forces from North, Central and South America in teh defence of the Panama Canal. HMCS ALGONQUIN, based in Esquimalt supported this mission with us in order to integrate and set presence with South and Central American nations. For the greater part of August, ATHABASKAN executed operations focused on providing security of the canal and ensured its unhindered access. In doing so, we acted as Flagship for Commander Task Force 802, Capt(N) Cassivi and his staff from Canadian Fleet Pacific, and worked in consort with ships from the United States Coast Guard as well as American, Mexican, Honduran, Guatemalan, Panamanian, Ecuadorian, Columbian, and Peruvian navies exercising Maritime Interdiction Operations.
Upon completion of PANAMAX, ATHABASKAN shifted from a force generation role to operations, transiting to Key West, Florida to operate under Canada Command for Op CARIBBE. Op CARIBBE is Canada's commitment to JIATF-S, a U.S. led initiative which focuses on teh interdiciton and disruption of illicit trafficking and other narco-terrorist threats in support of national and partner nation security in the Pacific and Caribbean region. Working closely with our U.S. ally, we embarked a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enfocement Detachment (LEDET) for the duration of its JIATF-S mission. In essence, the LEDET was responsible for the law enforcement aspect of the mission, while ATHABASKAN provided the sustained at sea capabilities afforded by a warship; mobility, time on station, sensor suite, maritime operational expertise, small boat and helicopter support and an indigenous intelligence team.
ATHABASKAN's primary role was to help build the Recognized Maritime Picture in the Caribbean Basin and discern between legitimate maritime traffic and those engaged in nefarious activities on the water. The method of trafficking varies from small 'go-fasts' to fishing vessels and sailboats to fully submersible and semi-submersible vessels that are more difficult to detect. Using our medium range radar and the Sea King helicopter, call sign "Big Dawg", in addition to national level support from agencies such as TRINITY in Hallifax, ATHABASKAN endeavoured to locate possible traffickers for the LEDET to interdict.
Although no narcotics were seized by the ship, it was assessed that ATHABASKAN's mission was effective in countering the illicit trafficking in the region. During our deployment, 46 cases were targeted and nine cases were disrupted (18.3 metric tonnes) equating to $2.2 billion. ATHABASKAN's presence in the area allowed other assets to be freed up for interceptions and served notice that Canada is becoming a well-stablished partner in countering the flow of drugs in this region. Additionally, ATHABASKAN was able to develop regional relationships along the way, particularly with our French, Dutch and British allies. At the end of our Caribbean deployment we were part of Operation CARIBE ROYALE, a French led operation in the vicinity of Martinique. CARIBE ROYALE perpetuates teh JIATF-S mission in the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean, where the narcotics trafficking routes to those islands and Europe originate. During this part of the deployment, ATHABASKAN worked with ships and aircraft from France, Netherlands, and Great Britain. Although working under a different Task Group (CTG 4.6), ATHABASKAN continued to proudly represent Canada and was a major contributor in this disruptio noperation led by France.
Even while conducting operations, as professional mariners, we of course have an obligation for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). Shortly after departing Key West we spotted a small pleasure craft with two American citizens onboard about 45 miles from land who had been lost at sea and adrift for 48 hours. Their engine had failed while out for a fishing trip and had been reported missing to the U.S. Coast Guard when they did not return. It goes without saying that they were extremelly happy to see this Canadian warship. We gave them a care package of food and water, and the ship kept watch over them until USCG assets arrived on scene at which time ATHABASKAN resumer operations.
This three month deployment also offered a great opportunity for the ship's company to engage in specialized physical fitness activities to improve their quality of life at sea. The idea first took hold during a divisional interview with a member who had failed his fitness test. "it's very hard to find thei time to work out at sea", the member complained. If this was teh sentiment of one member, this was likely the sentiment of many; causing ATHABASKAN to look into the possibility of obtaining physical training support for our ship. We had the good fortune of embarking PSP staff member Olivia Goguen, who worked long hours in order to accommodate the varied schedules of all who were interested in maintaining a fitness routine. Olivia brought a new perspective to fitness and healthy living, hosting daily exercise classes three times a day, team training, personal trainer sessions, and healthy eating classes.
Some common complaints of a southern deployment are the long days and the intense 40 degree Celsius heat, but the crew managed to keep morale high throughout the trip. ATHABASKAN celebrated her 39th Anniversary while at sea on the 30th of September, and was able to honour those ATHABASKAN's pas and present. The ship was also able to raise over $15,000 for this year's GCWCC campaign, the most of any other ship in the east coast Fleet.
Throughout the past six months I have had the pleasure of promoting several sialors but few will be more memorable than others when the Combat Chief, CPO2 Rob Fanjoy, had the pleasure of assisting me in promoting his son to Able Seaman. AB Fanjoy was Attach Posted to the ship's Deck Department for the deployment and it was an excellent opportunity for fatehr and son to spend some time together being sailors.
After 10 weeks at sea, visits to Mayport, Nassau, Key West, Montego Bay, Colon, Cartagena, Willemstad, Fort de France and San Juan, and an accomplished mission, ATHABASKAN returned home to Halifax to begin pre-refit trials in preparation for her major refit which is to be begin in the spring. This well-deserved break will give the crew a chance to spend some time with the family and friends, go on career coursing and no doubt assist the incoming Flagship, IROQUOIS, as she prepares to take over those duties mid-December.
In closing, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of you for the superb support and enthusiasm that you have provided us in ATHABASKAN. I have truly enjoyed getting to know many of you either in person or through your letters and e-mails. As you know, we are a very tight knit family of Athabees who very much benefit from the tremendous support of our fellow sailors from ashore. It remains an honour and a privilege for me to Command a warship with suh a fantastic crew and an eqaully rich heritage and support network. If I forgot to mention it, she still can go pretty fast!
I hope you all enjoy a joyous and relaxing holiday this Christmas, wherever you may be. As always, should you be in Halifax and wish to see the ship, or if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact my Executive Officer, Lieutenant-Commander Dan Beaulac at 902-427-2746 or via e-mail at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org, or myself at 902-427-2742 or via e-mail at Michael.email@example.com at any time.
We Fight As One