April 18, 1996
(Works, Services and Transportation)

The following is being distributed at the request of Marine Atlantic:

Persian Gulf crew recognized by United Stated government

Persian Gulf crew recognized by United States Government Operation Desert Storm may have taken its place in the annals of military history, but five years after the Persian Gulf conflict, 26 Marine Atlantic crewmembers who played a role in the supply effort have been recognized by the United States.

In late 1990, Marine Atlantic's MV Atlantic Freighter was chartered to the U.S. Military Sealift command for Operation Desert Shield, the planning effort which led up to Operation Desert Storm.

The Freighter, under the command of Captain Neil Hillier, and 25 other volunteer crewmembers departed from North Sydney on December 19, 1990, and didn't return until April 30 of the next year to a tumultuous hero's welcome at her Marine Atlantic dock.

In the intervening four and half months, Captain Hillier and his crew took the heavily loaded Freighter into the mine-infested waters of the Persian Gulf on two supply missions, and one of those trips was during the height of the conflict.

With the conclusion of the Gulf War, the vessel was finally released from the conflict zone and began her long journey back through the Suez Canal, and halfway around the world to her starting point in Cape Breton.

Marine Atlantic's president at the time, Terry Ivany, saluted the returning crew members as "true heroes of Marine Atlantic."

While the Canadian military played a supportive role in the Persian Gulf effort, the Atlantic Freighter was a civilian vessel contracted by the United States. As the vessel was not part of the official Canadian contingent, its crewmembers did not qualify for any Canadian awards.

However, federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Fred Mifflin, a retired Canadian Navy rear admiral, actively pursued some form of recognition for the crew and ultimately secured for them the United States Merchant Marine Expeditionary Award.

Captain Hiller, who was advised of the award through a phone call at his home from Mr. Mifflin's office March 8 said the recognition was somewhat unexpected.

"The citation comes as a surprise five years after the event, and credit has to go to Admiral Mifflin for seeing it through," says Captain Hillier. "Our role was certainly seen to be of great significant by the U.S. military at the time of the conflict, and the recognition today is still appreciated."

Contact: Doug Burgess, Public Relations Officer, (709) 772-5731.

1996 04 18 3:45 p.m. /md

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