While some Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members are heading home to their families from Mali, others are heading there to replace them.
This month marks the halfway point of a year-long mission in support of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). They are part a helicopter Task Force providing aeromedical evacuation and air transport capability that is assisting peacekeepers and civilians in that area.
Defence Minister Harjit S.Sajjan stated in a press release, “Through Operation PRESENCE, the women and men of our Canadian Armed Forces are providing critical support to MINUSMA to help set conditions for durable peace, development, and prosperity in Mali. Congratulations and thank you to all CAF members who have just returned home from their deployment. I am confident that the next rotation of CAF personnel will continue to deliver lifesaving medical evacuation support to further assist MINUSMA in its mission.”
The change in personnel also included includes changing the command team of Task Force Mali. Colonel Chris McKenna has handed over command of Task Force Mali to Colonel Travis Morehen.
The incoming commander of Task Force Mali, Colonel Travis Morehen stated in a press release, “I am extremely honoured to lead this rotation of 250 Canadian Armed Forces members operating alongside our MINUSMA partners. Our task is noble and our purpose clear: we bring a highly-effective, aeromedical capability that ultimately saves lives and allows greater freedom of movement for our international partners working to stabilize the region. I can think of few things more rewarding than helping a country provide its people with better security and prosperity for the future.”
Task Force Mali includes CH-147F Chinook and CH-146 Griffon helicopters, and it provides MINUSMA with assistance on aeromedical evacuations, transportation, and logistical support. The Chinook helicopters provide support with transportation and logistics, while the Griffon helicopters provide support with armed escort and defensive tasks.
“Congratulations to the CAF personnel who recently completed their deployment on Operation PRESENCE. Your invaluable contribution to MINUSMA with world-class medical and casualty evacuations as well as transport and logistics support reflects the best of what Canada has to offer. I also welcome the next rotation of dedicated aviators and soldiers who will continue delivering these essential functions to enable MINUSMA to fulfill its mandate,” said Lieutenant-General Mike Rouleau, Commander Canadian Joint Operations Command.
As of this month, Task Force Mali has conducted seven medical evacuations, and they have flown over 2,100 hours in support of MINUSMA.
Not to be outdone, the Hercules aircraft, which is part of the Tactical Airlift Detachment, has flown over 850 hours, and lifted over 1.6 million pounds of cargo in support of Operation PRESENCE.
The outgoing personnel is largely from 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron out of Edmonton. They are being replaced by personnel from 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron out of Valcartier. As for the Chinooks, personnel was mainly from 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron out of Petawawa, and they are being replaced by other members of their own squadron. Personnel from CAF units across Canada assisted with the mission, as well.
Outgoing commander of Task Force Mali, Colonel Chris McKenna stated in a press release, “Operation PRESENCE delivers a world-class aeromedical evacuation capability for the UN and by doing so, saves lives in Mali. Our operations guarantee our partners have the confidence to manoeuvre on the ground and that we are here to support them. We are proud to have been part of MINUSMA and contribute to the stabilization of the Sahel. My team has my unwavering respect and admiration for a job well done.”