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Inuvik man sails into harm's way

Commander of HMCS Vancouver headed for war zone

Northern News Services

Inuvik (Oct 12/01) - The commander of a Canadian navy frigate believed headed to the Arabian Sea to protect U.S. warships hails from Inuvik. Cmdr. James Heath leads the HMCS Vancouver, which is based at Esquimalt, B.C. He was born and raised in the Northwest Territories and graduated from Samuel Hearne secondary school. He joined the Canadian Forces in 1976 and has served aboard many ships.

His wife Lorri (nee Bennett) is also from Inuvik. They have three children, Cassidy, Bennett and Andrew.

The Vancouver was assigned to join a U.S. carrier battle group as part of "Operation Apollo," Canada's contribution to the American-led "war on terrorism."

Heath has commanded the frigate since July 1999. The ship is staffed by 224 officers and crew. According to his navy biography, he has served aboard various vessels, including HMCS Chaleur, HMCS Yukon, HMCS Restigouche and was weapons officer for another frigate, HMCS Ottawa. Prior to assuming command of the Vancouver, Heath was executive assistant to the chief of staff, supreme allied commander Atlantic, in Norfolk, Va.

Canada's other contributions include: a naval task group out of Halifax with two frigates and more than 1,000 personnel operating in the Persian Gulf; surveillance and transport aircraft; and humanitarian assistance to Afghan refugees. The armed forces have also committed a component of its specialist force, Joint Task Force 2.