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USAFE helps Rwandan troops deploy to Darfur

by Capt. Morgan J. O'Brien III
86th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

7/19/2005 - KIGALI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Rwanda (AFPN) -- A C-17 Globemaster III departed here July 18 carrying 95 Rwandan troops deploying to help ease the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The airlift started the 86th Aerospace Expeditionary Group’s involvement in NATO’s support to the African Union expanded mission in the region. The airlift is expected to last 30 days.

“The people of Darfur need help,” said Col. Scott Schafer, the group commander. “This first airlift means that Rwandan troops are on the way.”

The troops were sent off with the music of a Rwandan military band, and marched to the C-17 through a Rwandan military honor guard hailing them with fixed bayonets. The aircraft was from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., and was flown by a crew from McChord AFB, Wash.

“All of our efforts in support of (the mission in the Darfur region of Sudan) underscore our commitment to an important team effort,” said Capt. Joel Harper, the group’s public affairs chief. “We are working with the international community, specifically the African Union and NATO, to help achieve peace in a unified Sudan.”

During the operation, about 150 Airmen from Ramstein Air Base, Germany; Royal Mildenhall, England; and strategic support from U.S. Transportation Command will move about 1,200 Rwandan troops from Kigali to Al-Fashir, Sudan.

“We’re not alone in this mission,” Colonel Schafer said. “We’re working with our allies in NATO and the AU to ensure Darfur gets help.”

The U.S. airlift is part of the larger multinational effort to improve security and create conditions in which humanitarian assistance can be more effectively provided to the people of Darfur. NATO Secretary Gen. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer announced June 9 that the alliance would help the AU expand its peacekeeping force in Darfur from 3,300 to about 7,700 in the coming months.

U.S. European Command began deploying Airmen and equipment here July 14.

About 120 U.S. Air Forces in Europe Airmen and three C-130 Hercules aircraft from Ramstein deployed to Africa in October 2004 to conduct a similar mission. By mission's end, the C-130s had carried about 350 AU troops and 118,000 pounds of cargo. (Courtesy of USAFE News Service)

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