Air Force Begins Air­lift of Peace­keep­ing Equip­ment to Dar­fur

By Eric Elliot
Spe­cial to Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

KIGALI, Rwan­da, Jan. 14, 2009 — The Air Force has begun air­lift­ing Rwan­dan peace­keep­ing equip­ment and sup­plies from here to Sudan’s Dar­fur region as part of a Unit­ed Nations-African Union peace­keep­ing mis­sion.

Air Force Begins Airlift of Peacekeeping Equipment to Darfur
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Charles Jones, Head­quar­ters Sup­port Com­pa­ny, South­ern Euro­pean Task Force, trains about 30 Rwan­da sol­diers how to weigh water hold­ing tanks as part of the African Deploy­ment Assis­tance Phased Train­ing Pro­gram, Kigali, Rwan­da, Jan. 12, 2009. The tanks are part of about 150 tons of Rwan­dan mil­i­tary equip­ment the U.S. Air Force will air­lift to the Dar­fur region of Sudan in sup­port of the Unit­ed Nations, Africa Union peace­keep­ing mis­sion there.
U.S. Air Force pho­to by Staff Sgt. Samuel Ben­det

The first mis­sion was com­plet­ed today by the “Spir­it of The Gold­en Gate,” a C‑17 Globe­mas­ter III trans­port jet deployed to Africa from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. Anoth­er Travis-based C‑17 flew a sec­ond mis­sion.

Each air­craft car­ried about 30 tons of car­go. In all, the Air Force will trans­port more than 150 tons of equip­ment and sup­plies, includ­ing nine over­sized vehi­cles, water purifi­ca­tion sys­tems, water trail­ers, tents and spare parts.

“This equip­ment is essen­tial to the suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of our mis­sion in Dar­fur,” Maj. Jill Rutara­ma­ra, spokesman for the Rwan­dan Defense Forces, said. “It will assist us in what­ev­er we do there and improve the qual­i­ty of life for our sol­diers deployed to Dar­fur.”

Rwan­da has four bat­tal­ions of peace­keep­ers in Dar­fur, total­ing 2,566 per­son­nel, with a goal of increas­ing the peace­keep­ing force to 3,200, Rutera­ma­ra said. The Rwan­dan peace­keep­ers are assigned to the hybrid Unit­ed Nations-African Union mis­sion in Dar­fur, known as UNAMID.

Pres­i­dent George W. Bush announced the deci­sion to air­lift the equip­ment Jan. 5 as part of the U.S. government’s ongo­ing sup­port for inter­na­tion­al peace­keep­ing efforts in Dar­fur.

Since 2003, con­flict in the Dar­fur region of west­ern Sudan has dis­placed an esti­mat­ed 2.5 mil­lion peo­ple and led to an esti­mat­ed 300,000 deaths, accord­ing to Unit­ed Nations sta­tis­tics. Since 2004, the Unit­ed States has spent more than $15 mil­lion to air­lift 11,400 peace­keep­ers and their equip­ment to and from Dar­fur and has pro­vid­ed more than $100 mil­lion to train and equip those forces, accord­ing to a White House fact sheet. Much of this sup­port is coor­di­nat­ed through the State Depart­ment.

“I have pro­vid­ed a waiv­er to the State Depart­ment so they can begin to move 240 con­tain­ers worth of heavy equip­ment into Dar­fur, and that the Defense Depart­ment will be fly­ing Rwan­dan equip­ment into Dar­fur to help facil­i­tate the peace­keep­ing mis­sions there,” Bush said. The State Depart­ment is trans­port­ing the 240 con­tain­ers under a sep­a­rate con­tract.

The mil­i­tary por­tion of the air­lift is the first major mis­sion planned by Air Forces Africa, U.S. Africa Command’s air com­po­nent. Air Forces Africa also is U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s 17th Air Force, with head­quar­ters at Ram­stein Air Base, Ger­many.

“This was a com­pli­cat­ed project that ulti­mate­ly took sev­er­al months of inter­a­gency and inter­de­part­men­tal coor­di­na­tion and plan­ning,” Maj. Greg Loco­co, chief of oper­a­tional plan­ning for Air Forces Africa, said.

Air Forces Africa’s 722nd Expe­di­tionary Air Base Squadron was respon­si­ble for work­ing with the Rwan­dan Defense Forces to pre­pare the vehi­cles and equip­ment for the deploy­ment, con­duct­ing air­field oper­a­tions focus­ing on car­go move­ment as well as iron­ing out the logis­ti­cal details asso­ci­at­ed with the mis­sion. The squadron includes spe­cial­ists from the 615th Con­tin­gency Response Wing based at Travis, and U.S. Africa Com­mand in Stuttgart, Ger­many.

“We’ve been impressed by the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the Rwan­dans,” said Air Force Maj. Sang Kim, 722nd Expe­di­tionary Air Base Squadron com­man­der. “The work done here is essen­tial to enable the [Rwan­dan Defense Forces] to exe­cute their mis­sion in Dar­fur.”

The air­lift was pro­vid­ed by air­craft and crews from the active-duty 60th Air Mobil­i­ty Wing and the Air Force Reserve’s 349th Air Mobil­i­ty Wing from Travis.

“From plan­ning through exe­cu­tion, this was a great expe­ri­ence for our unit,” said Air Force Col. Lida Dahnke, com­man­der of the 404th Air Expe­di­tionary Group at Air Forces Africa and par­ent unit to the 722nd. “Once our plan­ners had assem­bled all of the pieces to the puz­zle, we still had to work through the process­es of putting them all in place to exe­cute the mis­sion.”

More than three months of exten­sive plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion made the mis­sion “fair­ly seam­less for us,” said Air Force Maj. Sean Pierce of the 301st Air­lift Squadron, air­craft com­man­der for one of the two C‑17 trans­port planes.

The mis­sion also rep­re­sents the first large-scale peace­keep­er sup­port mis­sion for U.S. Africa Com­mand since it was for­mal­ly acti­vat­ed Oct. 1. Pre­vi­ous sup­port mis­sions in sup­port of peace­keep­ing in Dar­fur were con­duct­ed under the direc­tion of U.S. Euro­pean Com­mand, which had respon­si­bil­i­ty for Africa pri­or to Africom’s acti­va­tion.

“The U.S. mil­i­tary has been work­ing with African nations for years,” said Vince Craw­ley, an Africom spokesman. “The com­mand wants to add val­ue to what the U.S. mil­i­tary has been doing — that is help­ing African part­ners devel­op their secu­ri­ty capa­bil­i­ties in order to pro­mote secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty through­out the con­ti­nent.”

(Eric Elliot works in the U.S. Africa Com­mand pub­lic affairs office.)

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)