Dutch honour for Canadian task force commander in Mali

“It was a complete surprise,” said Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Col Chris McKenna, who completed his tour as commander of Task Force Mali on Jan. 25, 2019.

LCol René Le Noble (left), commander of the Dutch contingent in Mali, and the RCAF’s Col Chris McKenna (right), commander of Task Force Mali, during the Task Force change of command ceremony in Gao, Mali, on Jan. 25, 2019. Le Noble had just presented  McKenna with the Dutch Medal of Merit in Bronze. Cpl Ken Beliwicz Photo

McKenna handed over command of the Operation Presence Task Force to Col Travis Morehen during a transfer of command authority ceremony held at Camp Castor in Gao, Mali.

But unbeknownst to McKenna, an addition had been made to the ceremony: LCol René Le Noble, commander of the Dutch contingent in Mali, co-located with the Canadians at Camp Castor, presented McKenna with the Dutch Medal of Merit in Bronze.

“We had a close relationship with the Dutch and we gave each other a lot of mutual support–conducting operations and training together,” continued McKenna. “They were great to work with.

“It’s pretty incredible when another country recognizes your work, but the kudos really belong [to] each and every member of our Task Force. I’m very proud of what our Canadian personnel accomplished during our first rotation in Mali, supporting the Dutch–and all our Allies–in what is an extremely difficult and highly dangerous operational environment,” he said.

Col Chris McKenna, BGen Sean Boyle and Col Travis Morehen sign scrolls to officially change command of Operation Presence-Mali at Camp Castor in Gao, Mali on Jan. 25, 2019. Cpl Ken Beliwicz Photo

“The work we are doing in Mali is saving lives and safeguarding our Allies.”

According to a Dutch news release, McKenna received the medal for supporting the Dutch Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol Task Group (LRRPTG) through, for example, medical evacuations, logistical support and tactical air mobility support. As well, says the news release, his leadership style motivated his unit to provide the maximum possible support to the Netherlands.

“By your tenacious attitude towards various players, you have rendered the UN mission in general–and the LRRPTG in particular–a very great service,” said Le Noble.

A close relationship between the Dutch and Canadian contingents arose “because of a similar mentality,” according to the news release.

“Because of your proactive attitude, your unit has provided support to Dutch units that far exceeded the expectations and mindset of the United Nations,” continued Le Noble. “You have always had the welfare of Dutch [and] other international peacekeepers in mind.”

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