Guard Agency Takes Over Sinai Air Observer Missions
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va., June 4, 2010 The Army National Guard's Operational Support Airlift Agency recently accepted a new mission to deploy aircrews and aircraft to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
The mission, part of the Multinational Force and observers’ mission of enforcing the 1979 Camp David Peace Accords, primarily entails flying civilian observers, who verify the continued observance of the 30-year-old peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
"It is a direct result of the 1979 peace accords," said Staff Sgt. Joe Garland, noncommissioned officer in charge of current operations at OSAA, which is based at Fort Belvoir, Va. "They have over 20-some odd countries stationed in two places in Egypt that do weekly verifications of the peace treaty to make sure one side is not encroaching on the other."
OSAA will take over the mission this month from the French military, which is withdrawing from the MFO mission after taking part since the late 1980s, said Garland.
Currently, OSAA is set to take part in the mission through 2011, but OSAA officials believe that commitment will be extended.
"Right now, we've only been directed to support it for one year," said Capt.
Chris Logsdon, future operations officer at OSAA. "But, everyone's gut feeling is that it will continue past that, so we are planning for continued operations."
The current group set to deploy to Egypt is made up entirely of volunteers, said Logsdon, adding that if tasked with staying longer than a year it will turn into a rotational mission, much like other deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan or other overseas deployments.
He added that OSAA has the ideal equipment and personnel skill set that is needed to support the mission.
"When the French let MFO know they were no longer going to support the mission, there was an evaluation done on several different types of aircraft," Logsdon said. "The C-23 Sherpa, which the Army National Guard is the only (U.S.) military agency that has that airframe, ranked highly in their evaluation criteria."
What makes the Sherpa aircraft, referred to by many as a boxcar with wings, ideal for the mission is its versatility and the line of sight it offers to those onboard, Logsdon said.
"The aircraft can go from passenger transport to cargo transport and it can even be used to transport patients in a casualty evacuation situation," he said. "And the visibility range to see outside the aircraft is ideal. That is a huge part of what MFO does."
Currently, OSAA is sending a squad-sized element to support the flying mission, Logsdon said, but the agency also has been tasked to support other aspects of the overall MFO mission as well.
"We've also been asked to support the MFO plans and operations cell," Logsdon said. "This was a second tasking that was identified that they needed and they asked us if we could step up and assist and we're doing everything we can to find volunteers to cover down on that request."
Planning for the MFO mission, Garland said, has been in the works for the past few months.
The mission to the Sinai “kind of trickled down to us here at OSAA," he said.
"We weren't actually given the mission until about three or four weeks ago,” Garland continued, “but we leaned way far forward preparing for everything just in case we were."
And that, he said, speaks to the level of readiness of his unit.
"We're able to do planning, coordinating and really put things in play and just get it all together until somebody says go," he said. "Then, we've got all the pieces on the chessboard and in play and we can go very quickly."