Ready for MINUSMA: Operation PRESENCE-Mali reaches final operating capability
By Sub-Lieutenant Melanie Aqiqi, Operation PRESENCE-Mali Public Affairs Officer
A significant achievement for Operation PRESENCE was reached on August 15, 2018. The Canadian Task Force declared to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) that we are ready: ready to do what is asked of us in support of the UN stabilization operation in the country of Mali in West Africa.
On the very same day, the professionalism and efficient support of CAF personnel paid off.
In the early morning of August 15, 2018 personnel from the Netherland’s Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol Task Group boarded a CH-147F Chinook helicopter at Camp Castor. At the request of MINUSMA, the CH-147F Chinook helicopter, along with two CH-146 Griffon escorts, took off and landed in the area north of Gao, carrying the specialized unit.
Their main effort was to develop an accurate picture of the area and validate situational awareness for the MINUSMA Force Commander. Without an accurate picture of what is happening in the more remote areas of Mali, the Force Commander would be unable to make informed decisions about the movements and priorities of the military forces he commands, who are part of MINUSMA.
Upon the announcement of the mission to key leadership, Colonel Chris McKenna, Commander of Task Force Mali, said “this is what we have come here to do. By contributing to deliberate operations through the provision of world class tactical aviation capabilities, we are delivering an effect for the Force Commander and for MINUSMA as a whole.”
Access to logistical support and the safe delivery of people and materials are essential to MINUSMA’s stabilization efforts and play a key role in the endurance of humanitarian and development activities in Mali. Without the support of aircraft and personnel deployed on Operation PRESENCE, UN personnel in the eastern sector of the country would be placed at a greater risk and their range of activities would be limited.
The Task Force’s initial operating capability was achieved on August 1, 2018 when it began providing MINUSMA with a 24/7 standby Forward Aeromedical Evacuation capability in the vicinity of Gao. While medical evacuations are the primary focus for Canadians deployed as part of MINUSMA, the Canadian helicopter detachment will also provide a medium-heavy lift capability for the transport of people and materials at the request of the UN.
The Canadian Task Force is made up of 250 well-trained soldiers, sailors, air women and men and includes three CH-147F Chinook and five CH-146 Griffon helicopters. One of each aircraft is a spare airframe to ensure that 24/7 operations are sustained at all times. The task force is comprised of aircrew, maintainers, medical professionals, support enablers, and other key personnel and advisors.
Canada is one of 57 nations who share in the stabilization efforts of MINUSMA. While the Canadian Armed Forces provides a key capability, we have joined a team of nations who are dedicated to the efforts in Mali.