HMCS Toronto crew comes home to Halifax after more than seven months at sea

Geordon Omand
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Family and friends turned out in the happy hundreds Thursday morning at the navy dockyard in Halifax to welcome home loved ones, deployed for more than seven months aboard HMCS Toronto.

HMCS Toronto crew comes home to Halifax after more than seven months at sea

“It’s overwhelming, it really is,” said leading seaman Andrew McNeil, who was first to leave the ship on Thursday.

Crowds cheered as he embraced his two young daughters, tears running down his face.

“I don’t really have any words to put to it,” he added, saying he looked forward to celebrating a late Christmas with his family.

“Seven months and one day, (but) who’s counting?” said 27-year-old Nicole MacLean, describing how long it had been since she had seen her boyfriend of three years, Sean Ritchie.

“I’ve done it lots of times but it doesn’t get any easier,” said petty officer Derrick Kelloway after reuniting with his wife, Fran Kelloway.

“It’s like part of you is gone for all that time,” she added. “The reunion’s amazing.”

The HMCS Toronto served more than a year in the Arabian Sea as part of Operation ARTEMIS, Canada’s contribution to counter-terrorism and maritime security operations in the the Arabian Sea.

Crew rotated once in July 2013.

”I couldn’t be more proud of what this crew’s achieved,” said Commander Matthew Bowen.

The frigate’s commanding officer described the mission as one of the highlights of his career, and essential in the overall fight against terrorism.

“Having a presence over there and being a player in trying to bring peace and security to the area is very important for Canada,” he added.

During its 375-day deployment in the Arabian Sea, HMCS Toronto intercepted and destroyed about 8.5 tonnes of narcotics in its mission against terrorism, including more than six tonnes of hashish and two of heroine.

“That’s all funding terrorist organizations aren’t getting and that’s to me, in my books, a huge success,” said Bowen.

The vessel travelled nearly 150,000 kilometres, with its onboard Sea King helicopter logging more than 900 flying hours.

Geographic location: Arabian Sea, Halifax, Canada

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