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On Aug. 31, 2017, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) was certified to carry out NATO’s enhanced air policing mission in Romania, replacing the Royal Air Force (RAF), which had conducted the mission since April 2017. The air policing mission is part of Operation Reassurance.
Working alongside its Romanian counterparts, the Canadian Armed Forces is working to preserve the integrity and sovereignty of our NATO allies’ airspace. During the earliest stages of the mission, the Royal Canadian Air Forces’ 2 Air Expeditionary Wing in Bagotville, Que., sent an Air Force Activation Surge Team–known as AFAST–to prepare for the arrival of the operation’s air task force commander, the main group of personnel and a CF-188 Hornet air detachment from 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alta.
On Aug. 11, 33 members of the AFAST left Bagotville, destined for Romania. Their job was to get the Canadian camp, which would eventually house the Air Task Force Romania (ATF-R) at the Romanian Air Forces’ 57th Airbase Mihail Kogalcineanu Airport, up and running.
The AFAST concept is relatively new and works well. The AFAST consists of an operational support element, a force protection element, and a mission support element, all led by a command team. They “surge forward” and prepare the area for the main group of ATF personnel that follow.
The team possesses air expeditionary skills that are focused on preparing and enabling air power. Being part of this AFAST was a very exciting mission for personnel from 2 Air Expeditionary Squadron; other 2 Wing members; support personnel from across the RCAF; and members of 409 “Nighthawks” Tactical fighter Squadron. Being “first on the ground” always provides steady challenges and endless opportunities for creative solutions.
Preparation time in Romania was extremely limited: nine days, or 159 hours. Unique challenges arose immediately, but our members’ initiative was up to the task. Within hours of our arrival we found solutions to a missing bus, quarantined cargo and much more.
We created relationships with our Romanian, British and American allies, and a plan of support began. Our sister unit, the Royal Air Force’s 135 Air Expeditionary Wing, who handed the mission over to us, gave us an outstanding welcome and incredible support throughout.
The Canadian attitude of professionalism and friendliness in the face of challenges and difficult tasks was truly inspiring. By Aug. 20, after only nine days, a temporary set-up for the incoming ATF personnel and CF-188 Hornets was established, with our first NATO evaluation and follow-on certification fast approaching.
Through the diligence of our members, their creative solutions and the infectious positivity, we were able to achieve initial operating capability with no delay, and I was proud of the team. When the CF 188s arrived, it was clear Royal Canadian Air Force Air Power had arrived.
We were no longer an AFAST–we were an ATF.