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“Not in training anymore” Canadian military personnel fly into action in Mali

In the middle of their first personnel change, Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members deployed to Mali were called into action after a deadly attack took place on a United Nations (UN) base in late January. 

On Jan. 20, the UN base in Aguelhok, Mali was attacked by extremists with links to Al Qaida that left ten dead and dozens more injured. 

CAF members deployed on Operation PRESENCE, Canada’s contribution to the United Nations-sanctioned peacekeeping mission in Mali, aided in relief by evacuating 15 UN soldiers and delivering food, water, and ammunition. 

Cpl. Christina Brine, a medical technician, had arrived just days before the attack as part of Roto 1. 

“I was hit with ‘we are not in training anymore.’ We’re here to do our jobs. It really helps to motivate you and solidify why we’re here and say you know what: I’m here for this job. I’ve spent a year and a bit training for this. It’s go time,” said Brine. 

Brine and her unit were returning from training when they were notified of the attack. She and her comrades helped to prepare personnel from Roto 0 who were flying to the UN base. Upon the crews return she then assisted with cleaning the helicopter, restocking equipment and preparing the crew with anything else they needed for their return to the site. 

Five Canadian helicopters were part of the mission including two large Chinooks, transformed into mobile hospitals, and three Griffon helicopters. 

“It’s like an emergency department, the same level of care you would get there, but on a mobile platform. Coming from an EMS background it’s absolutely phenomenal to have that kind of care come to your doorstep,” commented Brine. 

The mission of Operation PRESENCE is to provide the UN with 24/7 assistance in medically evacuating UN forces by air. Additionally, CAF members transport equipment, supplies and provide logistical support. 

A great deal of training goes into ensuring soldiers are prepared to effectively respond to emergencies, even once the troops are deployed. 

“We’ve been doing a lot of training to get us used to this climate and environment, as well as a lot of medical training to ensure that regardless of what type of call we get we can respond in an effective and efficient manner, as well as honing our medical skills in this environment,” said Brine. 

There are a number of challenges that the personnel must accommodate for once in theatre, including language barriers and a lack of resources. 

“You realize the smallest thing can have a big impact,” noted Brine. 

Brine and the rest of her comrades on Roto 1 will remain in Mali until the end of July, the anticipated end of Canada’s peacekeeping mission to the African country. 

Background photo: Combat Camera Flickr

Members of the Dutch medical team provide care to a Dutch simulated casualty before boarding a Canadian CH-147F Chinook helicopter during a medical evacuation exercise as part of Operation PRESENCE – Mali, around Gao, Mali, January 30, 2019. Photo: Corporal François Charest 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (430 Tac Hel Sqn)TM02-2019-0003-0001

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MIshall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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