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USAFE, Rwandan security forces protect airlift mission

by 1st Lt. Elizabeth Culbertson
U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs

10/6/2005 - KIGALI, Rwanda (AFPN) -- A joint U.S. and Rwandan security forces team is keeping the people and aircraft supporting humanitarian operations here safe.

Sixteen Airmen with the 786th Security Forces Squadron from Sembach Air Base, Germany, and six Airmen with the 435th SFS at Ramstein AB, Germany, are working with Rwandan troops to keep Ramstein C-130 Hercules aircraft and the deployed 86th Air Expeditionary Group protected during their airlift mission to the troubled Darfur region of Sudan.

"We're here to provide force protection for the support and flightline ops, in close cooperation with Rwandan defense forces," said 1st Lt. Toby Kennedy, 86th AEG security forces element commander.

The 86th AEG is supporting the African Union airlift mission and is scheduled to move 550 AU peacekeepers to Sudan, as well as redeploy 200 AU troops back here. The mission is part of the international and U.S. government effort to assist the victims of the humanitarian crisis in Sudan.

Security forces troops here provide access control, gate escort and other force protection measures in conjunction with host-nation security forces.

The U.S. team consists of 786th SFS Expeditionary Combat Support forces, Ravens from the 786th SFS and conventional security forces from the 435th SFS. The Ravens are specially trained to provide security for aircraft and aircrews while airborne and on the ground, but only a limited number available for this operation.

Airmen with the 435th SFS have assisted by augmenting Ravens with Airmen experienced in aircraft security.

It is a different type of environment here for Airmen used to operating in more remote and demanding environments, said Lieutenant Kennedy, but not one at variance with their overall mission.

"We provide close-in security for aircraft on the ground in austere locations," said Tech. Sgt. Nathan Hogan, a 786th SFS Raven.

The 435th Airmen have been a welcomed addition to the team, Lieutenant Kennedy said.

"They have stepped up and fully integrated with the Ravens. We couldn't have done this mission without them," he said.

Working in a foreign security environment always presents unique challenges, said Lieutenant Kennedy added, and the coordination between countries has helped to troubleshoot any issues.

The U.S. and Rwandan troops have worked together with a spirit of cooperation to protect resources, he said.

"The Rwandan team has facilitated all our requirements," the lieutenant said. "They've gotten us everything we've needed and augmented our small force, allowing us to project more force than we have alone. They are a very capable military force."

U.S. deployed security forces are also doing an exceptional job, Lieutenant Kennedy said.

"Our security forces have shown a great adaptability to a dynamic security environment and have shown fantastic professionalism in executing the mission," he said.

"The efforts of the Rwandan and U.S. security team have been a key component in helping this operation to be completed safely and successfully," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Renner, 86th AEG commander. (Courtesy of U.S. Air Forces in Europe News Service)

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