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Air Force Flies Peacekeepers to Darfur (Oct. 29)

KIGALI, Rwanda --- An Air Force C-130 Hercules left Abuja, Nigeria, on Oct. 28 with about 40 Nigerian troops and 3,000 pounds of equipment bound for El-Fashir airstrip in Sudan’s Darfur region.

This marked the beginning of the airlift mission of African Union protection forces to the troubled area, they said.

More than 120 active-duty and Reserve Airmen and two C-130s deployed here from Europe to set up operations supporting the mission. One of the C-130s arrived in Nigeria on Oct. 27 to prepare for the Oct. 28 airlift of Nigerian troops.

The operation aims to help lessen the severity of the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region, where nearly 50,000 people have been killed and more than 1.5 million have lost their homes, officials said.

“Airlift plays a small, but vital role, and we are proud and honored to help the (African Union) as they embark to solve this crisis,” said Col. Robert Baine, 322nd Air Expeditionary Group commander.

The group’s mission is limited to providing airlift support. U.S. troops will not be on the ground in Sudan, said Capt. Heather Healy, 322nd AEG public affairs officer.

“The (Hercules) is the workhorse of the Air Force,” said Maj. Paul Howard, a C-130 pilot from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. “Unlike jet aircraft that require a debris-free runway, the C-130 is a resilient, prop aircraft, and that makes it capable of landing on unfinished airfields.”

Airmen Begin Airlift Mission to Sudan