An Owen Sound native and member of the Royal Canadian Navy is currently serving in the Middle East on a mission aimed at stopping terrorist organizations from using the high seas to smuggle illicit cargo, including narcotics.Leading seaman Evan Lawrence is on the warship HMCS Regina in the northern Arabian Sea as part of Operation ARTEMIS.“We are part of a force that is engaging in anti-smuggling operations,” said Lawrence, who was born and raised in Owen Sound.“Part of this includes preventing drugs from being smuggled out of the region. Profits from the illegal drug trade go back into the hands of groups that funnel money into terrorism operations that run counter to the idea of peace and stability in the region. Illegal arms are also smuggled in the area, helping terrorist groups and others who would seek to disrupt peace and stability in the region.”As the deck crane operator, Lawrence has personally been involved in craning all nine tonnes of illegal drugs the ship has seized so far from smugglers, according to a Navy official.He is also a weapons engineering technician SONAR on the 134-metre Halifax-class frigate.“We have a daily routine where I work a five and seven-hour shift during every 24-hour period. At any time during those periods I could be performing maintenance, conducting rounds on combat equipment, standing as our technician-of-the-watch or driving the ship,” he said.Lawrence said he would like nothing more than to be able to help the region “achieve the kind of stability that we have in Canada.”His current deployment, part of the Canadian Armed Forces’ ongoing contribution to counter-terrorism and maritime security operations in the Middle East, is slated to end in August.Lawrence, 43, attended Dufferin, Hillcrest and West Hill schools in Owen Sound.He played minor sports here and, as an adult, worked for a telecom company.Those experiences in Owen Sound would end up helping him in his Navy career, he said. Sports promoted physical fitness and the importance of being a team player, he said, while his telecom work provided him with a firm grasp of installing and troubleshooting communications equipment.Lawrence joined the military in 2011 at age 35. He took basic training before attending Fanshawe College’s two-year electronics engineering technology program, funded by the Canadian Forces.His mother, father and extended family members still live in Grey-Bruce. His wife Jennifer, who is also in the Navy, has family members in the area as well.The pair met in Victoria, B.C., where they are now based, before discovering their parents live 20 minutes apart. They have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter.Lawrence said he has always had a desire to join the military. Two of his uncles, he said, were part of the Canadian Navy in the 1960s and ’70s.Lawrence and his HCMS Regina team are sailing as part of two operations – ARTEMIS, which is confined to an area in the western Indian Ocean and into the waters of the Middle East, and PROJECTION, which includes the western Pacific and eastern Indian Ocean regions.They left B.C. Feb. 6 and are to return Aug. 19.This is Lawrence’s first mission in the Middle East.For most of the deployment, the team is sailing with the interim supply ship MV Asterix.HMCS Regina joined the operation at the end of March. For about two months, the team had the Naval Tactical Operations Group with them. The group was responsible for 11 boardings that netted about nine tonnes of illegal drugs from four vessels.The ship seized more than two tonnes of hashish May 3, 1.5 tonnes of the drug plus 10.5 kilogram of heroin April 18, more than three tonnes of hashish April 15 and 2.5 tonnes of hashish April 6.Lawrence’s primary role is to maintain the ships’ underwater warfare suites, which include torpedoes and sensors used to detect submarines and surface vessels, and navigation systems, which provide location services, such as GPS, route planning and meteorological information.His secondary role is crane operator.The challenge of working with a diversity of equipment is one of the things he said he loves about his job.“One day I could be troubleshooting a hydraulic system, the next hour working on an electronics fault, and in the next I could be operating a piece of the ship’s heavy machinery,” he said.Lawrence said the most difficult part of the current mission is being away from his family, including his daughter, who he said he misses everyday, but is able to talk with via video chat at each port of call.“The internet definitely makes travelling a lot easier. I can chat with my wife everyday at sea. That keeps us in touch and closes the distance a little bit on a six-and-a-half-month deployment,” he said.Lawrence, who returns to Owen Sound at least once a year to visit family, said two weeks before his current deployment ends in August, his wife will leave for a four-month deployment overseas.But they intend to be together with their daughter at Christmas.“The plan is for both of us to end up at shore-based units in new positions for a time before being posted back to a sea-going ship for new missions and new experiences in a couple of years,” he said.