Peacekeeping mission in Mali concludes

Operation PRESENCE-Mali
Members of Operation Presence-Mali conducted their eleventh aeromedical evacuation mission, treating two civilian contractors involved in an IED attack before transferring the casualties to a MINUSMA Role 2 hospital in Gao, near Camp Castor on August 16, 2019. Photo: Corporal Richard Lessard

Department of National Defence/ Canadian Armed Forces

After more than a year of operations in Mali, the Air Task Force (ATF) deployed in Gao completed its mission on August 31, 2019.

An important aspect of Canada’s multi-faceted support included providing critical aeromedical evacuation, logistic and transport capabilities as part of Operation Presence-Mali.

In July 2018, an ATF composed of 250 personnel and eight Royal Canadian Air Force CH-147F Chinook and CH-146 Griffon helicopters deployed to Gao, northern Mali as part of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA); they were essential to the conduct of United Nations operations in remote and vulnerable areas of the country.

During the mission, the personnel deployed under Operation Presence-Mali conducted 11 aeromedical evacuations and more than 100 transport missions. Upon ceasing transport aviation tasks on July 31, 2019, RCAF helicopters had transported approximately 2,800 passengers and delivered 370,000 pounds of cargo, over more than 4,000 flying hours.

To facilitate a smooth and efficient transition with the incoming Romanian helicopter detachment, the RCAF provided four CC-177 Globemaster intra-theatre airlift flights to assist with the deployment of Romanian personnel and equipment to theatre. A small Canadian transition team will also be deployed to assist Romania in its preparations to conduct operations. This will minimize disruptions in the availability of critical capabilities to
MINUSMA forces and help set up the Romanian rotation for operational success. CAF personnel also met with Canadian civilian police officers, who are deployed with MINUSMA until March 2021, and shared lessons learned in support of their ongoing work in Mali.

“The professionalism of Canadian Armed Forces members was on display throughout the past year in Mali. Successfully executing a mission of this scale in a complex and demanding environment requires a high level of resourcefulness, patience and determination,” said Lieutenant-General Mike Rouleau, the commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command. “I am beyond impressed with the work our people have done to support peace operations in Africa.”

In March 2018, Canada committed an ATF to MINUSMA for a period of one year. The ATF became fully operational in August 2018 and provided critical aeromedical evacuation, logistics and transport support to the UN.

Since August 2018, approximately 1,250 personnel have deployed on Operation Presence-Mali in operational, logistics support and staff officer roles.

The CAF began its gradual departure from Mali on July 31 with the end of transport aviation tasks. To limit the gap between the departure of Canada’s ATF and Romania’s arrival, the ATF continued to provide standby aeromedical evacuation coverage until August 31. A small number of Canadian personnel will remain in the region until the full repatriation of the ATF equipment, expected to be completed no later than January 2020. These personnel will not be conducting aeromedical evacuation, logistics and transport support; these responsibilities will be undertaken by Romania.

Operation PRESENCE-Mali

RCAF CH-146 Griffon helicopter and CH-147F Chinook helicopter fly in formation following an aeromedical evacuation exercise on June 5, 2019, during Operation Presence-Mali.
Photo: Corporal François Charest