French soldiers march to a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III in support of missions in the Republic of Mali in January 2013. The United States agreed to help France airlift troops and equipment into Mali. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Richardson)
French troops prepare for take-off inside a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft in Istres, France, Jan. 21, 2013. France deployed military to the African country of Mali to fight forces who threaten the current Mali government's stability and are relying on assistance from allies in transporting troops and supplies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon)
French soldier, Marjorie Moreaux, looks out of a window while in route to Mali in a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III in January 2013. The United States agreed to help France airlift troops and equipment into Mali. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Richardson)
by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon
USAFE - AFAFRICA Public Affairs
1/25/2013 - ISTRES, France -- ISTRES, France - The U.S. Air Force delivered on its promise to Paris by delivering French troops via airlift to Bamako, Mali, Jan. 21.
The first C-17 Globemaster III from Dover Air Force Base, Del., took off from here and landed in Bamako Monday afternoon and delivered more than 80,000 pounds of equipment and dozens of French soldiers.
France deployed its armed forces to the African country on Jan. 11, and requested assistance from other countries to transport armored regiments and troops. The military presence is in response to militant forces that have taken over parts of Mali and threaten capturing strategic towns in southern Mali.
In response to requested logistical support from the French, the U.S. deployed Airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Wing from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., and multiple C-17 aircrews to the southern town of Istres, France, where there is a French air base.
The 621st has a unique capability, in that they are able to deploy, open an airfield, and establish, sustain and manage air mobility operations from that area. In this case, the planners are here to coordinate air support for the French military movements and load the U.S. Air Force cargo aircraft.
U.S. Air Force Maj. David Gaulin, a contingency response element commander from the 621st, was one of the first on the ground to assess the airfield and determine requirements for operating out of Istres.
"We were able to show up here, set up communications with the United States and provided an initial assessment of what capabilities the French had and what capabilities we could bring to the operation within an hour of landing," said Gaulin.
Since beginning the air transportation missions from France to Bamako, the French and American military work closely together to prepare and load equipment on the C-17s.
The cargo and equipment is prepared by the French and then the load plans are given to the U.S. aircraft commander for review, said French air force Maj. Eric Chabaud, who is the chief of aircraft services in Istres.
"It's a good thing for us to work together on things like this, because we want to be an asset to the operation, not a hindrance," said Chabaud. "We have a very good relationship with the Americans here right now and we help them any time we can."
Although difficulties like language barriers and differences in operational methods arise in situations like these, they have been able to overcome and get vehicles and people on the aircraft and down to Mali, said Gaulin.
"France has been a partner since the 1700s, so it's good that we're able to use the logistics ability we have - aircraft, our personnel and equipment - to help them," said Gaulin.
The Airmen here will continue to support the French in the upcoming days, and continue to rely on the partnership that exists between France and the U.S.