Air Force Transports Rwandan Troops to Central African Republic
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2014 U.S. airlift operations are continuing in the Central African Republic, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said today.
Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft initially began operations Dec. 12 in response to a French request for limited support in the region. During those initial operations, small teams of U.S. airmen transported a Burundi light infantry battalion.
The troops are part of an African Union-led international support mission intended to help prevent the further spread of sectarian violence.
The United Nations estimates that thousands of people in the Central African Republic have been killed and 2.2 million are in need of humanitarian aid due to rebel violence.
Airlift operations to transport a Rwandan mechanized infantry unit began Jan. 14, Warren said. That operation, he said, is expected to take about three weeks to complete.
It will take longer to move the Rwandan soldiers and their equipment than it did to move the Burundi troops, he said, “because this is a mechanized battalion that we're moving this time, so there are just more pieces of equipment that have to be moved and they take up more space.”
Since Jan. 14, the U.S. Air Force has transported a total of 131 Rwandan soldiers, 22 pallets of supplies and equipment, 13 vehicles and 1 forklift, Warren said.
Two small teams of U.S. Air Force personnel are on the ground in Kigali, Rwanda, and Bangui, Central African Republic, to help load and unload the aircraft. U.S. Army personnel are running the operation on the ground in Rwanda and the Central African Republic, and security is being provided by French and African Union soldiers, defense officials said. About 100 additional Air Force personnel are in Entebbe, Uganda, to support flight operations.
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter @rouloafps)