AF continues to airlift Rwandan units to Central African Republic

  • Published
  • By Capt. Christine Guthrie
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe and U.S. Air Forces Africa
Two U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft operating at the request of the French government and African Union authorities continued airlifting a Rwandan mechanized battalion Jan. 19.

The joint operation with personnel from the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force is in support of an African Union effort to confront destabilizing forces and violence within Central African Republic.

"The African Union has decided to stand up a mission in the Central African Republic to decrease the violence that has been occurring over the last several months," Lt. Col. Allen Pepper, senior officer in Central African Republic, U.S. Army Africa said. "A part of that is getting enough troops on the ground to execute that mission."

Each airlift mission stages out of Entebbe, Uganda and consists of transporting soldiers and equipment from Kigali, Rwanda to Bangui, Central Africa Republic.

Maj. Micah Vander Veen Contingency Response Element Commander, and overall mission commander for the Entebbe stage said, "Our goal is to provide logistical and airlift support to the Rwandan military in order to support their overall mission."

In Kigali, forces from the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, 435th Contingency Response Group, U.S. Army Africa and Rwandan mechanized battalion work together to prepare equipment to be loaded onto the C-17 aircraft. Personnel build pallets containing security equipment, clear weapons and create load plans.

"What the Rwandans are doing in Central Africa is very important, they are preventing mass atrocities and helping to stabilize the Central African Republic," said Lt. Col. David Hernandez, Mission Coordination Cell Rwanda officer in charge. "For this reason, the support we are providing to them is important."

The joint U.S. military contingent is expected to transport about 850 Rwandan soldiers and more than 1,000 tons of equipment in total over the next few weeks.

This is the second such operation in support of the African Union's efforts to stabilize Central African Republic. The first occurred late last year when the U.S. Air Force transported Burundi soldiers.

Although the situation is stabilizing in Bangui, additional forces are needed to reinforce the progress being made.

"The most rewarding part of this mission is seeing the quality troops that come off these planes" Pepper said. "They come off [the aircraft] and are ready and eager to go and do their mission. Without these kinds of folks on the ground, this mission could never be completed."