Canadian Chinooks make their debut
With handshakes over signed documents, the transfer of six D-model Chinook medium- to heavy-lift helicopters from the U.S. Army to the Canadian Forces was completed on 30 December 2008. Already boasting Canadian colours, the helicopters are now on the inventory of the Joint Task Force Afghanistan (JTF Afg) Air Wing, and they will soon be flying in support of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in southern Afghanistan.
"The addition of six Chinook D-model helicopters will enhance air capabilities in Afghanistan, and will provide better protection for Canadians, coalition partners and Afghans while we work together to rebuild Afghanistan," said Lieutenant-Colonel Roger Gagnon of the Canadian Helicopter Force Afghanistan. "The Chinook aircraft will provide increased flexibility and help to reduce ground movement and help us to better accomplish the mission."
Captain Ron Smith of Bravo Company, 6th Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade from Bagram Air Base led the delivery mission. "Our Chinooks are just like our soldiers," he said, when asked how he felt about seeing the aircraft leave U.S. service. "They fight hard and give all they have. When the mission is over, some will take off one unit patch, put on another, and fight with their new team as if they were family. They will do well for Canada; the Chinook is an excellent helicopter!"
On 27 December 2008, during the handover period, the new helicopters took a leading role in a major VIP visit, the first hosted by the JTF-Afg Air Wing. After a detailed tour of the Wing's facilities with Brigadier-General Denis Thompson, commander of Task Force Kandahar, and a town hall meeting with the Wing's assembled personnel, Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay and Chief of the Defence Staff General Walt Natynczyk enjoyed a Chinook flight over Kandahar Airfield. It was the first time since 1991 that a Chinook helicopter with a Canadian Forces crew had ferried passengers.
The need for more helicopters for in-theatre operations was identified soon after the Canadian mission in Afghanistan moved from Kabul to Kandahar. Until now, the Canadian task force has used the pooled helicopter assets of NATO and coalition partners. This arrangement met Task Force Kandahar's most basic needs, but the pool has never had enough available helicopters to fulfill all requirements.
"We are all ecstatic about the arrival of the Chinook," said Sergeant Bob Patten, a Chinook maintenance crew chief from 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron in Edmonton. "We are glad to see them here. They will help get some of the boys off the roads, and hopefully save lives."
The acquisition of JTF-Afg's six CH-147 Chinook D helicopters was a key recommendation of the Manley Report and a condition of the Parliamentary motion that extended Canadian Forces operations in Afghanistan until 2011.
By Captain Dean Menard - Canadian Armed Forces (http://www.airforce.forces.gc.ca/site/newsroom/news_e.asp?cat=114&id=7567)
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