Deployment to Libya bittersweet for families

Esquimalt-based frigate expected to leave port Sunday

  • Jul. 7, 2011 6:00 p.m.
Rob Côté and his wife Olga Minko

Rob Côté and his wife Olga Minko

Little Aline Côté leaves her mother’s embrace and, with squeals of delight, toddles into her father’s arms.

“She loves when daddy comes home,” says proud mom, Olga Minko.

When navy Lt. Rob Côté arrives home from work at CFB Esquimalt each day, their 11-month-old totters back and forth between her doting parents, practising her newfound walking abilities.

“I think that’s what we’ll miss the most,” Minko says.

Côté is soaking up every minute of family life he can before he leaves for the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast aboard HMCS Vancouver, likely on Sunday (July 10). He will miss his only child’s first birthday in August, but says he feels fortunate to have witnessed Aline take her first steps two weeks ago.

“I was happy not to miss that,” says Côté.

Despite the difficulty of leaving his family for six or seven months, he is looking forward to putting his training into action.

“It is a bittersweet feeling,” says Côté, a shipborne air controller on Vancouver. When the ship’s Sea King helicopter goes out on patrols, the flight crew will radio information back to Côté on the vessel.

“You’re affecting change,” Côté says of his work. “That’s what I’ve signed up to do.”

It’s not without its sacrifices. Crew members have 15 minutes of satellite telephone time every three days, plus Internet access, but there may be times when communications are restricted for security reasons.

“I think that’s the hardest part of sailing, and there’s things that go through your mind (about the danger the ship may face),” says Minko, who plans to focus on helping Aline remember her father with family pictures taped on the walls at toddler height. Côté has also recorded stories and songs for his little girl so she can hear his voice.

“We stay positive,” says Minko.

To help, families will be regularly briefed throughout the mission and the Esquimalt Military Family Resource Centre has several services for families of deployed personnel. Each ship, including Vancouver, has an email network for families and children’s deployment workshops, social gatherings for spouses or partners and free respite childcare are available.

Minko already has deployment handbooks at the ready to learn what she may experience before, during and after her husband’s deployment.

“It’s grieving, that feeling of loss,” Minko says, adding that knowing what to expect helps. “No matter how much you prepare you would still go through a cycle of emotions.”

The Esquimalt Military Family Resource Centre can be reached 24 hours a day at 250-363-2640, or by visiting www.esquimaltmfrc.com.

More mission details are expected to be revealed on Sunday, prior to the ship’s departure.

emccracken@vicnews.com

 

Mission details

Crew: 250 personnel, including Sea King helicopter air detachment

Boarding party: 20 member-team; boards, secures and searches ships for drugs and weapons.

Ship, crew preparation: Non-stop training for the past month.

Travel time: Two to three weeks.

Deployment: Six to seven months.

• Mission: Enforce UN-backed arms sea embargo and no-fly zone over Libya.