Defense

January 5, 2014

Airlift operations complete in Central African Republic

SSgt. Billy Hepworth communicates with his team at Bangui Airport in the Central African Republic, Dec. 17, 2013. The U.S. military provided airlift support to transport Burundi soldiers, food and supplies in the C.A.R. in coordination with the French military and African Union. This support is aimed at enabling African forces to deploy promptly to prevent further spread of sectarian violence and restore security in the C.A.R.

Initial airlift operations are complete in the Central African Republic, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said Dec. 30.

A small U.S. Air Force support team and two C-17 Globemaster III aircraft began airlift operations Dec. 12 in response to a French request for airlift support. The U.S. airmen conducted 16 flights from Burundi to the Central African Republic, Warren said, transporting 857 Burundi troops, 73 pallets of equipment and 18 Burundian military vehicles.

The Burundi troops – a light infantry battalion – are part of an African Union-led international support mission intended to help prevent the further spread of sectarian violence, Assistant Pentagon Press Secretary Carl Woog said in a Dec. 9 statement.

Fewer than 10 Americans remain on the ground serving as liaisons with the French military, Warren said.

Also, three of the four U.S. service members wounded Dec. 21 in South Sudan have returned to the United States for treatment, Warren said. The fourth remains in a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.

All four service members are in stable condition, a Defense Department spokesman said.

The service members were wounded when they attempted to evacuate Americans from the town of Bor, South Sudan, according to a U.S. Africa Command statement. They were hit by small-arms fire from unknown forces when their three CV-22 Osprey aircraft attempted to land in Bor. Africom is reviewing the incident, Warren said.

To date, more than 870 people have been evacuated from South Sudan on a mix of military and charter aircraft, he said. The Defense Department has flown three airlift missions with C-130 Hercules aircraft and one mission with a C-12 Huron.

Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, Africom’s commander, ordered a platoon-sized element of Marines and a Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules aircraft to Entebbe, Uganda, on Dec. 24 to serve as a contingency force, Warren said. The Marines are part of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response, based at Moron Air Base, Spain, and were initially sent to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, before being moved to Uganda.

Rodriguez had earlier ordered elements of the East Africa Response Force to be positioned in Juba, South Sudan, to augment security at the embassy.

“This is all exactly what you’d expect [given the security situation],” Warren said. “It’s a combatant commander positioning forces in such a way that he’s got options.”




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