"Having personally worked with the Romanians twice before, including this very mission, it was really exciting to come back as the Commander. They are a very capable Air Force and absolutely great to work with so it was a joy to be back flying with them again this year,” said Lieutenant-Colonel McLeod. “Obviously with the pandemic it limited a lot of the in-person interaction which was disappointing but it also quickly became clear just how important it is to have previous experience training with them and other NATO Allies,” he added.
It really cemented how important our collective training and operational procedures within NATO really are
It was thanks to years of working together in multinational missions and operations and NATO’s common operating language that the Canadian deployment was able to overcome the challenges of coordinating virtually, including flight briefs. “We saw even our junior pilots easily adapt to this new reality and it really cemented how important our collective training and operational procedures within NATO really are,” added Lieutenant-Colonel McLeod.
With these common procedures, Canadian CF-18 pilots were able to take part in numerous training flights with the Romanian Air Force as well as other NATO allies like Bulgaria and the United States, including integrating with land and maritime forces. In a significant milestone for the Air Task Force, they achieved the first Canadian joint data link network within NATO, integrating allied air and maritime assets and thereby
advancing the Canadian contribution to NATO assurance and deterrence missions. They also conducted numerous quick reaction missions helping to secure NATO skies, including the intercept of a Su-27 operating near Romanian airspace on September 23. All of which were only possible thanks to a strong team of pilots, technicians and support trades that kept jets in the air and camp operations running smoothly.
The COVID environment also came with other challenges for the detachment, like keeping almost 150 members and their host nation safe from the virus. Preventive health measures like physical distancing, mask wearing and hand washing were critical to mission success. “I’m extremely proud of my team,” said Lieutenant-Colonel McLeod. “Their dedication to COVID-19 precautions was really the key to our success. When we deploy we deploy with a small team and losing anyone to sickness can have an effect on the mission. For over four months they have been stringent in their protective health measures and I’m very happy to say that with just over a week left, we continue to keep each other safe from this virus,” he added.
Overall, concluded Lieutenant-Colonel McLeod, it was a very successful deployment thanks to the resilience of a dedicated team of professionals and NATO’s agility in adapting to operating during a global pandemic.
The Canadian CF-18 detachment will complete its fifth enhanced Air Policing mission in support of the Alliance at the end of December and redeploy to its home base in the beginning of January.