427, CSOR heading to Africa
Helicopters and personnel from the base will deploy to Western Africa in the next few weeks to support training of the region’s soldiers, the Department of National Defence has confirmed.
An advance team of personnel from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) is already in Niger in preparation for involvement in Flintlock 13, a multinational exercise that will conducted by the U.S. Africa Command in February and March.
They will be supported by a small detachment of CH-146 Griffon helicopters, pilots, flight engineers and ground maintenance crews from 427th Special Operations Aviation Squadron (SOAS). The Petawawa deployment will not extend to the troubled country of Mali, the department said Monday.
“Exercise Flintlock 13 involves the capacity building of several countries within the Western Africa Sahel Region which contributes to regional security,” Maj. Doug MacNair, a public affairs officer with Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) told the Daily Observer. “However, Mali is not participating in the exercise, nor are there plans for Canada to train Malian forces.”
CSOR operators will provide training in reconnaissance, marksmanship, land navigation, and other basic military skills to Nigerien forces in their country. Closer to the start of Exercise Flintlock 13, the CSOR personnel and the Nigerien soldiers will move to the exercise location in Mauritania.
At least 50 Canadian troops will be participating in the exercise. The involvement of 427 Squadron will be limited, noted MacNair.
“These aircraft will provide airlift capability for the exercise participants,” he said. “427 SOAS will not be providing aviation training during Ex Flintlock to any African training partner.”
CSOR had first participated in Exercise Flintlock in 2011. In November, 427 Squadron had travelled to Jamaica in a similar capacity in order to support a joint Canadian Special Operations Forces Command/Jamaica exercise.
Earlier this month,Canada provided one C-17 transport aircraft in a non-combat role to support the operations of its French allies in Mali. The transport was assigned to that role for one week only, DND said. France has sent in 2,000 troops to help Malian forces fight Islamist militants who now control the northern half of the country.
In addition to Canada, the U.K., the U.S., Belgium and Denmark have dispatched transport planes to the region.
Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated that, while Canada will not consider direct military involvement in Mali, we are prepared to provide “limited and clearly defined logistical support to assist the forces that are intervening in Mali.”
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist