U.S. Air Force crews deliver supplies to Mali

Tacoma News TribuneFebruary 19, 2013 

Air Force crews from Joint Base Lewis-McChord have been delivering troops and supplies to Mali for more than three weeks in support of an international mission against a North African al-Qaida group.

The Air Force announced Friday that teams from Lewis-McChord and Dover Air Force Base hit a milestone in delivering 2 million pounds of cargo for Malian and French forces over 23 days They’re flying C-17 Globemaster IIIs out of Istres, France.

Airmen say they’re enjoying the opportunity to support an allied military.

“The best part of this mission is being able to take part in something important and being able to say, ‘I was there. I helped make that happen,’” Airman 1st Class Evan Rosenboom of Lewis-McChord 62nd Operations Support Squadron told an Air Force writer.

U.S. forces have not joined the Malian and French effort against North African jihadist forces in a combat role. The U.S. is providing only financial and intelligence assistance.

“We are assisting the French, we are assisting the Africans, but we have no plans in engaging ourselves or putting boots on the ground,” Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, testified at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing last week, according to USA Today. French and Malian forces are targeting al-Qaida’s North African affiliate, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. The jihadist group has some control of towns in North Mali.

Lewis-McChord airmen in France had to set up their operations on the fly because Istres does not usually handle C-17 cargo jets, Maj. Joshue Pieper of the 62nd Airlift Wing told an Air Force writer.

About 30 Air Force missions into Mali have involved Lewis-McChord airmen from the 62nd and 446th airlift wings.

“This has truly been a great opportunity to support our allies,” Pieper said.

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