ATF – Romania deployment “a true victory,” commander says

409 Squadron CF-18

A 409 Squadron CF-18 on the runway in Romania.
Photo: Sgt Daren Kraus

Jeff Gaye

Canada’s Air Task Force (ATF) in Romania completed its four-month mission in support of Operation Reassurance and Block 45 of NATO enhanced air policing (EAP) on December 31.

EAP is a peacetime collective defence mission that defends the alliance’s airspace.

The members of ATF-Romania were mainly from 2 Air Expeditionary Wing, Bagotville, and 4 Wing Cold Lake. They were supported by personnel from other Canadian Armed Forces bases.

In addition to the EAP mission, the ATF conducted regular training with its Romanian hosts. This included training in medical support, flight safety, aircraft maintenance, command and control, and military policing. ATF-Romania also conducted activities in support of local communities, including delivering donations to an orphanage.

ATF- Romania’s CF-18 Hornet crews trained alongside Romanian Air Force MiG-21s, F-16s and Puma helicopters, in addition to Portuguese F-16s, US Army Blackhawk helicopters and NATO airborne warning and control systems (AWACs).

The CF-18 crews also trained with French and Romanian vessels in the Black Sea.

LCol Mark Hickey, commander of ATF-Romania, said the four-month deployment went well.

“It was excellent, a true victory from my point of view, and something everyone is extremely proud of,” he said.

“We got a chance to not only support our Romanian partners, but the NATO alliance as well. And there were plenty of opportunities to conduct force generation training activities with our NATO allies – a big win as far as I am concerned.

“I didn’t quite know what to expect coming over here, but the opportunities to train were excellent.”

LCol Hickey said the ATF flew more than 250 missions and more than 350 hours. “From the pilots to the technicians to everyone involved in any type of support role, everyone pulled together to make the mission a success, and further solidify our position in the NATO alliance and alongside our Romanian partners,” he said.

“Not a single challenge was thrown at us that we couldn’t overcome with teamwork and dedication. All in all, it was a true honour to be the Air Task Force Commander leading this outstanding team.”

The deployment was the fourth time the RCAF had come to Romania with CF-18s. LCol Hickey said the cooperation with Romania was excellent. “They’ve been extremely gracious and have treated us like part of the family,” he said.

And as the deployment drew to a close last week, he also had high praise for the support from the home front.

“The true heroes are the families and friends left behind that take care of our kids, homes, families and loved ones,” LCol Hickey said. “Without your support we truly would not be able to carry out this mission on behalf of Canada and do what we love to do, so a sincere thank you from me for all of your support.”

ATF-Romania was composed of approximately 135 personnel and four CF-18 Hornet fighter jets. They began operating in Romania in September.