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Family At Sea

HMCS Protecteur Frightening times for our Royal Canadian Navy in the Pacific last week; HMCS Protecteur, one of the fleet’s two logistical support ships, was stricken by a fire in her engine room. The crew successfully put out the blaze, but not before it disabled Protecteur’s propulsion, and left her adrift in heavy seas. Fortunately, no one was killed, and injuries have been reportedly light, but one of the backbones of the RCN’s overseas capability was disabled, and had to send for help.

Who would answer the call? Naturally, the United States Navy.

We claim to be rivals of the Americans –– take that, Olympics hockey teams! –– and pretend we’re very different societies. In some ways, we undoubtedly are… but I’ve never subscribed to anti-Americanism, and as anyone paying close attention might have noticed, Champions features main characters who come from both sides of the 49th parallel, and yet are as close as… or indeed, literally are… family.

Sometimes family can be needlessly brutal to each other –– mocking and jabbing, criticizing or genuinely being exasperated. We can argue at length, see things in each other that we’d rather not see in ourselves, and borrow from each other without giving credit or thanks. But as much as we might play at being adversaries, you can always recognize family because, when one of us is plunged into danger, another arrives without hesitation.

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Protecteur refueling the battleship USS Wisconsin during the Gulf War, 1991.

Planes land. Supplies are sent. Rescuers are deployed. And nobody keeps count.

Yesterday, the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Chosin took Protecteur under tow, with the help of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Michael Murphy. This is very powerful help; those ships cost more than $1 billion each, and represent some of the most powerful surface combatants ever to sail the sea. When a call for help comes from an old friend like Protecteur –– which has served alongside Americans through the Cold War, the war on terror, and natural disasters –– the USN sends some of its best.

Because that’s what family is for.

Bravo Zulu, Chosin and Michael Murphy. And to the crew of Protecteur: well done fighting for your ship, and safe voyage to Pearl Harbor.

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A USN photo of supplies being put aboard Protecteur, as part of the current recovery operation.