CH-146 Griffon from 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron kicks up dust at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, located in the Mojave Desert in California, during Exercise Striking Bat. The squadron is practicing flying operations and helicopter maintenance in an austere and challenging desert environment, similar to what they will face during their upcoming deployment to Iraq. Photo: Corporal Desiree T. Bourdon, DND
Members of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, from Edmonton, Alberta, are completing their training for an upcoming deployment to Iraq.
Operating and maintaining CH-146 Griffon helicopters, the squadron deployed to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, to train in desert-like conditions, while also assisting the United States Marine Corps with their own major exercise.
“By conducting realistic readiness training for 408 Squadron’s upcoming Iraq deployment, we not only equip them with the skills they need to operate in an unstable part of the world, but we also demonstrate to our Allies that we take our leadership of the NATO Mission in Iraq seriously, by providing crucial logistical support to enable the training of our Iraqi partners,” said Brigadier-General Iain Huddleston, acting commander of 1 Canadian Air Division.
Having recently returned from a United Nations deployment in Mali, members of 408 Squadron conducted a variety of training serials including operations in austere environments to prepare themselves to fly and maintain aircraft in Iraq as part of Operation Impact (NATO Mission Iraq).
“The members of 408 Squadron have experienced an unprecedented operational tempo in the past decade, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Mali, with other deployments in support of humanitarian missions at home and abroad during those years, said Lieutenant-Colonel Dave Forbes, 408 Squadron’s commanding officer. “As we prepare our next rotation of squadron members for their role in Iraq, we do so knowing that we have benefited from the lessons learned and professionalism of those who went before us.”
NATO Mission Iraq is a non-combat training and capacity-building mission that is conducted with full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is designed to help strengthen Iraqi security forces and Iraqi military education institutions so that Iraqi forces can prevent the return of ISIS/Daesh.
Members of 408 Squadron training at Twentynine Palms will deploy as part of a tactical aviation detachment in Iraq. It includes up to four CH-146 Griffon helicopters. They carry Canadian troops, equipment, and supplies in theatre near Baghdad. The Griffons can do casualty evacuations if required. A variety of self-defence weapons are fitted to the aircraft.
While in Twentynine Palms, 408 Squadron conducted a wide variety of training including aerial protection of ground convoys and individual survival skills. They conducted maintenance of helicopters in an austere and challenging desert environment, similar to what they will face in Iraq.