Operation IMPACT: An interview with the commanding officer of the Tactical Aviation Detachment

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Article / April 18, 2017

Since October 2016, the Tactical Aviation Detachment in Iraq has mostly comprised members of 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, Valcartier, Quebec. They are now due to rotate back to Canada. The following set of questions and answers offers an account of the mission from the current Tactical Aviation Detachment commanding officer, Major Mathieu Bertrand.

Q:       How long have you been on Operation IMPACT in Iraq?

A:        I arrived in Iraq in early September as part of the advance party in order to finalize the installation for the Tactical Aviation Detachment, and to start the transition process with the Canadian helicopter unit that we were replacing. The initial plan was to do a six-month tour, but for different reasons my tour is extended to almost eight months.

Q:       What is your Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) background?

A:        I started flying the CH-146 Griffon helicopter with 439 Combat Support Squadron in Bagotville. I flew many rewarding search and rescue missions while posted there. I was then posted to 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron in Quebec, where I had the opportunity to deploy to Afghanistan to transport our troops to different forward operating bases and to escort the CH-147 Chinook helicopter.

I also deployed to Haiti following the 2010 earthquake to transport food, tarps, medical supplies and personnel to remote and inaccessible villages. In 2013, I was posted to the CAF Recruiting Centre in Quebec. I was posted back to 430 Squadron three years later.

Q:       What was it like serving in a helicopter squadron in Iraq during the Coalition campaign to retake Mosul?

A:        I was the operations officer when the Coalition campaign to retake Mosul started. The CAF continued its train, advise and assist role during the campaign, and we supported the CAF every day, working long hours, but it was really exciting. The high flying rate required additional aircrew and support from our unit back home. We can tell by the amount and type of cargo we were carrying that the Mosul campaign is a very serious fight.

Q:       What experience during your tour on Operation IMPACT has been particularly memorable for you?

A:        We support force protection and engineering units that are working hard to repair the Mosul Dam. Our support allows them to save time by not having to drive long hours on unsafe roads; instead we can fly personnel and supplies into and out of their location. In recognition, they organized a visit of the Mosul Dam while we were landed there for a couple of hours. It was amazing to see how many people work there, trying to stop the water flowing through this dam in a very dangerous part of the world. 

The Tactical Aviation Detachment of up to four CH-146 Griffon helicopters provides in-theatre tactical transport of Canadian troops, equipment, and supplies near Erbil. The Griffons are capable of providing casualty evacuations if required. They support Operation IMPACT, the CAF’s contribution to the Global Coalition to dismantle and ultimately defeat Daesh.

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