'I'm like a proud dad': HMCS Regina returns after 6-month deployment
It was an emotional and heartwarming welcome for the crew of HMCS Regina on the docks of CFB Esquimalt Monday.
Hundreds of families lined the jetty, anxiously waiting for their loved ones to return after a six-and-a-half-month deployment in the Asia- Pacific region.
During its time overseas, the ship's crew garnered national attention for successfully intercepting several tonnes of illegal drugs.
"I'm like a proud dad," HMCS Regina Cmdr. Jacob French on Monday.
"The disruption of the drug routes and smuggling deters terrorists and disrupts terrorist networks that fund extremists in that region."
As part of Operation Artemis, the onboard Naval Tactical Operations Group (NTOG) boarded and searched suspect vessels, successfully completing four drug busts, during the deployment.
"[The crew] was really excited to see us doing something tangible and having that success was really meaningful for us, meaningful for allies, and meaningful for Canada," French said.
Helping with the busts was a CH-148 Cyclone helicopter. It's the first time the chopper has been deployed with a ship on the West Coast.
"It was an absolute bonus," said French. "Both in the Middle East and in the Asia-Pacific, we're doing surveillance looking for vessels of interest. The helicopter really helps with that."
The Cyclone is replacing the CH-124 Sea King helicopters. The helicopter's air crew says its focus was to help the mission in any way it could.
"This is an amazing opportunity," said Capt. Jonathon Mishrigi. "We were the eyes and ears of the ship all around."
French says the helicopter is expected to join future deployments. The Cyclone flew above the HMCS Regina during its homecoming, before making its way back to Patricia Bay.
Waiting on the dock for the first kiss was master seaman Trevor Rempel's partner, Laura Ashley Grant, and their daughter.
Commander French said he couldn’t be more proud of his crew. Some of them even went above the call of duty.
While at sea, master seaman Jeffrey Haines started an onboard barbershop to raise money for a children's charity.
"I think the shipmates were pretty impressed I could do scissors, as well," Haines joked.
Crediting his skills to YouTube, Haines completed 550 haircuts, raising over $9,000 for the Jumpstart charity.
When asked if he would continue his new business during his time off, Haines said he would be taking a break from hairstyling, but will consider reopening the shop on his next deployment.