EUCOM Delivers Aid to Chadian Forces
Release Date: 3/15/2004
By 1st Lt. Phillip Ulmer 435th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
FAYA-LARGEAU AIRPORT, Chad - Answering a request for assistance, units from U.S. European Command responded with two C-130 Hercules delivering more than 19 tons of aid Saturday to Chad.
According to Chad officials here, 3 Chadian army soldiers were killed and 16 were injured when they encountered and engaged a group of fighters from the Salafist Group for Call and Combat who had crossed from Niger into Chad between the cities of Zouarke and Wour, 600 kilometers North of here. Officials also said that 40 of the militants were killed and four were taken into custody.
"Usually it takes about two days to plan a mission like this," said Capt. Jeff Menasco, 37th Airlift Squadron instructor pilot and mission commander, from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. "But we were airborne within an hour of being notified of the mission."
Just a little more than 10 hours after takeoff, the runway on the edge of the desert creeps into sight. Landing on the 7,700-foot runway just outside of Faya-Largeau, the crews taxi the C-130s amid scrub brush and sand. The temperature soars into the 100s at this one-building airport. More than three-dozen armed Chadians, ready to help download the aircraft, greet the crews.
With no heavy equipment in sight to unload the aircraft, the crew opts to "combat offload" the nine pallets of food, blankets and medical supplies.
"When there's no equipment available, the combat offload is the quickest way for us to download the aircraft," said Master Sgt. Larry Lambert, 37th AS chief evaluator loadmaster.
A combat offload consists of opening the back of the aircraft and releasing the pallet of cargo from its locks. The loadmasters position and steady the pallet. From here, the pilot stomps on the brakes and throttles up the engines. When the engines reach full speed, the pilot releases the brakes. As the Herk lunges forward, the pallets slip effortlessly off the back of the aircraft.
While the aircrew takes care of getting the aid off the aircraft and to the Chadian forces, members of the 86th Contingency Response Group from Ramstein handle security at the austere airfield where the aid is being delivered.
"Our job is to provide security for Air Force resources and people at locations that aren't secure, so the crew can focus on their job," said 1st Lt. Mike Jewell, 786th Security Forces Squadron Raven Team Leader. "While we haven't encounter any problems yet, we're always on the look out for hostile or suspicious activities."
Governor Hassane Djangbe´, who governs the Bockou, Emmedi, Tibesti region of Chad, said that the military engagement with the terrorists led to the discovery and subsequent seizure of implicating documents and equipment.
"We took five trucks with large machines guns mounted in the back, as well as a large weapons cache of rocket propelled grenades, AK-47s, mortars and ammunition," said Governor Djangbe´ through an interpreter. "We also discovered that the terrorists were well equipped with a handful of GPS units and satellite phones."
After the cargo is delivered and the aircraft safely back in the air, the crew focuses on returning back home.
"Our squadron and wing tactics planning cells did an incredible job to give us the tools we needed for this reactive mission," said Captain Menasco. "I have to credit the professionalism, experience and competency of the entire crew for the safe completion of this extremely challenging mission. It's the crew who made this mission happen."
Chad, located in the North-central region in Africa, has become an important ally in the global war on terrorism with the Pan Sahel Initiative. The Pan Sahel Initiative is a U.S. Department of State Security Assistance Program focusing on four countries in the Sahara region of Africa.
The initiative supports U.S. national security interests combating terrorism and enhancing regional peace and security. It directly assists Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania in protecting their borders and exploiting opportunities to detect and deter terrorists by providing basic training and equipment.
"On behalf of the people of Chad, I'd like to thank the American government and the United States Air Force for the aid you are delivering today," said Governor Djangbe´. "This aid will help our injured soldiers and it will help us as we try to fight the terrorists in our region."
Richard Boucher, spokesman for the Department of State, in a statement March 12, congratulated the Chadian forces on their successful military action. "It shows that foreign governments can operate successfully against terrorists, and that's the key to defeating terrorism worldwide," he said.
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