Task Force Mali personnel depart for UN peacekeeping mission
By Lieutenant (Navy) Sarah Harasymchuk
About 50 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members left 8 Wing Trenton on July 5, 2018, headed for Gao, Mali, as part of Operation Presence. They represent the first main group of personnel composing the Task Force headed to the region in support of the United Nations-led mission focused on peace and stability.
They will take over from Theatre Activation Team members who have been hard at work setting up the Canadian Camp in Gao since June. The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) aims to protect civilians, support the peace process, promote the political process, defend human rights, and stabilize the country.
The core objective of the CAF’s Task Force in support of MINUSMA will be to provide a much-needed 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week Forward Aeromedical Evacuation capability. Task Force Mali may also be tasked to transport troops, equipment, and supplies to support the ongoing mission. CH-146 Griffon helicopters will serve as armed escorts for the CH-147F Chinooks as their crews carry out critical mission requirements as part of MINUSMA.
“Our people are ready for the demands of operating in Mali and to respond immediately to provide life-saving support for MINUSMA,” says Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger, commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). “Our personnel are highly skilled and have been very well prepared for this deployment.”
Colonel Chris McKenna is the mission’s Task Force commander. “This will be a very high tempo mission,” he says. “Our focus and our key task will be Forward Aeromedical Evacuations. That means our crews will be on standby 24/7 to arrive at the point of injury as quickly as possible to provide life-saving interventions.”
About 250 personnel will deploy to Mali in the coming weeks. Personnel from 408 and 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadrons will make up most of the Task Force, with medical professionals, including doctors, critical care nurses and aeromedical technicians, being central to the success of the mission.
RCAF helicopters have a robust force protection package, which includes armed escort aircraft and specially trained personnel. The Griffon helicopters have the ability to establish security from the air to ensure the safe arrival and departure of the Chinook that will be delivering life-saving medical aid en route to medical facilities. Three Chinook and five Griffon helicopters will support the mission; one of each will be a spare.
The CH-147F Chinook is an advanced multi-mission, medium- to heavy-lift transport helicopter. It is used to transport equipment and personnel during domestic or deployed operations.
The CH-146 Griffon is a utility tactical transport helicopter. The Griffon’s primary role is tactical transportation of troops and materiel. It is also used at home and abroad for search and rescue missions, surveillance and reconnaissance, counter-drug operations, and armed escort for other helicopters.
Canada’s defence policy—Strong, Secure, Engaged—acknowledges the Royal Canadian Air Force’s significant contribution in all deployed operations, including UN peacekeeping. The RCAF is proud that air power is being called upon as Canada’s contribution to the United Nations mission in Mali, and is ready to support UN partners.
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