From the Globe and Mail, via the quirky but indomitable Alan McLeod, we learn that a Canadian task force of four ships, including an air detachment of three Sea Kings, will be sailing for New Orleans on Tuesday next:
Naval crews were busy Friday loading gear and supplies on to three warships and a coast guard vessel as 1,000 personnel prepared to head to waters off New Orleans on Tuesday, a week after hurricane Katrina devastated the area.
"We are really prepared to operate on all fronts as requested and as co-ordinated by the United States," Prime Minister Paul Martin said in Saskatoon.
"There are a large number of Canadians who are on their way down there to help."
Commodore Dean McFadden, who will command the deployment, said they were consulting with their American counterparts to determine what they will do during the expected month-long mission.
However, he broadly suggested their duties would involve reconstruction, health care and humanitarian aid.
"We will have the capacity to move people. We'll have the capacity to bring medical supplies and fuel capabilities," he said as he stood on the dock next to destroyer HMCS Athabaskan, the command and control ship for the mission.
"The specific jobs we're going to do, I'll wait until the Americans tell us what help they need."
The vessels will work with the U.S. navy and U.S. Coast Guard and carry Canadian Forces personnel, some of them military engineers who might be able to help restore power and generate electricity.
About 40 navy divers from both coasts were also expected to deploy with the mission, which got clearance after American officials accepted a Canadian offer of help.
In a place where dry land is at a premium, it's good to bring your own floating base. In a place where violent anarchy reigns, it's good to bring folks who know how to protect themselves and others. In a place where airborne rescues are ongoing because roads remain submerged, where pallets of relief supplies need to be put down very precisely on the scraps of land available, it's good to bring helos (yes, even Sea Slugs - I've been hoisted out of the Atlantic by one, and they'll get the job done). In a place where expertise is badly needed, it's good to bring engineers, medics, and divers. In a place where the essentials of life are in short supply, it's good to bring water, food, blankets, and shelter.
In a place where hard work is required, it's damned good to bring 1,000 of the most dedicated individuals you'll ever meet.
In short, it's good to bring the Canadian Armed Forces.
Credit where it's due: to General Hillier and his staff for putting this together on the fly, and to his boss Bill Graham and the Liberal government for approving it.
I couldn't be happier, or more proud.