HMCS Harry DeWolf crew returns home after first deployment

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Navy News / December 23, 2021

By Ryan Melanson

After taking part in an historic circumnavigation of North America and two operations, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Harry DeWolf’s crew arrived back in Halifax on December 16, 2021, with a lot to celebrate.

They completed successful back-to-back missions in completely different climates as the very first crew to deploy on board the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) new Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS).

For Sailor 1st Class (S1) Luc Gillis, the historic sail marked a clear highlight of his career so far, as he put his training to work while Harry DeWolf transited through Canada’s Arctic during Operation Nanook, the country’s premier annual operation in the region. During their northern transit, the crew connected with local communities before ship continued on its circumnavigation of the continent.

“I am so proud to have been part of this deployment. This is something I know I will tell my kids about when I’m older,” said S1 Gillis, a naval communicator and gunner who comes to the ship from his home unit, Naval Reserve Division HMCS Griffin in Thunder Bay, Ont.

While in the Arctic, the ship and its crew charted its course via the fabled Northwest Passage. A first for the RCN since HMCS Labrador’s northern voyage in 1954, Harry DeWolf followed the same route taken by the infamous 1845-46 Franklin Expedition, which was lost with all hands in the very same area.

It was a mission that brought near constant excitement for all involved, but also challenging tasks to be completed every day. After spending the previous year working tirelessly to prepare in the difficult pandemic environment, every member maintained that same professionalism and dedication over the four months of the deployment, said Commander (Cdr) Corey Gleason, HMCS Harry DeWolf’s Commanding Officer.

“During Operation Nanook, my sailors spent 61 days at sea straight, and the port visits we conducted to visit our affiliate communities were all working ports,” he said, describing the heavy workload for his personnel that came alongside the overwhelmingly positive experience in the Arctic.

Following Op Nanook, the ship underwent a working rest and maintenance period on the West Coast. During this time, the crew was kept busy with repair work and a heavy schedule of tours to help introduce the newest class of Canadian Navy ship to colleagues and the public.

They then shifted gears, prepared the vessel to operate in a warmer environment, and followed up with their second operational deployment to Op Caribbe, Canada's participation in U.S.-led enhanced counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean Sea and the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

Working alongside the U.S. Coast Guard, the ship assisted in two successful at-sea drug busts, on November 8 and November 18, resulting in the seizure of approximately 2,600 kilograms of cocaine.

“This is no small feat – the crew had to come together to write, implement and then run standard operating procedures for this type of vessel on Operation Caribbe,” Cdr Gleason noted, pointing out that the operation marked yet another “first” for Harry DeWolf.

“I am beyond proud of my sailors and their achievements over this circumnavigation of North America.”

Rear Admiral Keith Smith, United States Coast Guard Deputy Commander, Atlantic Area, presented Cdr Gleason with two snowflake decals for Harry DeWolf. These are displayed on the port side bridge wing to mark the ship's two drug seizures.

Harry DeWolf’s Coxswain (Cox’n), Chief Petty Officer 1st Class (CPO1) Ginette Seguin, echoed those comments about the crew. She joined the ship earlier this year, entering a tight-knit group, some of whom have been with the unit since before construction on the ship was even completed. This led to a collaborative, “all hands on deck” approach that exemplifies the best of what the Navy can be, she said.

“One of the best feelings as a Cox’n is when you see everyone gathering and helping each other out, to get the job done without even having to pipe it.”

“We’ve had many trials and tribulations we experienced together as we brought this ship online. It definitely brought us together, and made us a stronger family,” added S1 Gillis.

Despite the years of work leading up to the deployment, this mission was only the beginning of the legacy that will be built by the Harry DeWolf class. With the second AOPS, HMCS Margaret Brooke, currently conducting sea trials, and the third ship, HMCS Max Bernays not far behind, Cdr Gleason said he’s excited for the future of these ships, and eager to share everything he and his crew have learned.

“We have only begun to see what the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship class is capable of. I look forward to seeing what the next ships in this class improve upon and accomplish.”