1,000 safe and happy customers: Canadian Helicopter Force Afghanistan makes it happen
On the morning of February 17, 2009, a CH-146 Griffon helicopter lifted off the ramp at the Joint Task Force-Afghanistan (JTF-Afg) Air Wing carrying its 1,000th operational passenger.
The lucky and apparently happy 1,000th passenger was Major Robert Dunn of the Operations cell at Task Force Kandahar Headquarters. "I think that the new helicopter support the Canadian Wing is providing here is an excellent addition to the overall mission," said Major Dunn. "This will definitely give us an edge up on the mobility that we've required for some time now, and will also get some of the troops off the ground."
As well as providing escort protection for the Canadian CH-147 Chinook helicopter, the CH-146 Griffon is used for transporting personnel and equipment, and patrolling for signs of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and overflying routes ahead of vehicle convoys to ensure the roads are clear of suspicious activity.
"We only started conducting operations about a month ago now, and we've been quite busy," said Major Christopher Morrison, the Air Wing's operations officer responsible for helicopters. "To be able to say that our [Griffons] have already ferried 1,000 passengers is quite significant. In a short time, our CH-147 Chinooks will start moving passengers around the area, and then our number of passengers flown will explode off the charts."
The Griffon is an extremely versatile helicopter that is proving to both dependable and essential to operations in ISAF Regional Command (South).
"It's a good thing what were doing here, and to reach this milestone is an excellent accomplishment," said pilot Captain Curtis Wetyk, a reservist from 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron in Edmonton. "I've been in the military for 21 years now, and it great to be a part of what we are doing here, our contribution is making a noticeable difference."
"We treat everyone the same. As soon as they get on board the helicopter, they automatically become a VIP," said Griffon flight engineer Corporal Stacey Blackmore, also of 408 Squadron. "Flying troops and personnel around the area definitely makes my job worthwhile."
The Griffon helicopter has proved itself in international operations, including Operation HALO, Canada's participation in the United Nations effort to stabilize Haiti in 2004, and the Canadian contingent deployed under Operation PALLADIUM to serve with the NATO Stabilization Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1996 to 2005.
"The troops on the ground are very happy to see the Canadian helicopters here," said Lieutenant Colonel Roger Barrett, commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group. "The addition of the Air Wing adds value to the overall mission, and will definitely enhance our overall capabilities."
By Captain Dean Menard - Canadian Armed Forces
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