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2 million pounds to Africa

McChord Airmen help Mali airlift reach momentous milestone

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brandi Hansen

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ISTRES, France (AFNS) - The Air Force reached a major milestone Feb. 12 when the service hit the 2 million pounds of cargo transported mark during airlift operations from Istres, France to Bamako, Mali and other partner nations in support of French military operations in Northern Africa.

At the request of the French government, airlift operations began on Jan. 21 and the Air Force has flown 43 missions under the control of U.S. Africa Command. The U.S. is committed to supporting France and international partners to confront Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, an Islamist militant organization, as well as affiliated extremists in Northern Africa.

Delivering 2 million pounds of cargo in just 23 days is quite an achievement.

"This operation has been extremely rewarding, supporting our French partner's efforts to promote stability in Mali," said Lt. Col. Shawn Underwood, 621st Contingency Response Element commander. "Working through the challenges of unfamiliar equipment and different languages made crossing the 2 million pound threshold that much more satisfying, but we know there is more work to do."

After weeks of continuous airlift operations, French and U.S. military personnel have been working closely together every day to prepare and load cargo and personnel into C-17s.

"We have been enabling the movement of French forces in support of their operations. There have been some difficulties because of the different equipment, certificates and procedures," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Felix, an aerial transporter assigned to the 818th Global Mobility Squadron. "We are working through these and getting the job done."

C-17 Globemasters from the 62nd Airlift Wing, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and the 436th Airlift Wing, Dover Air Force Base, Del., staging from Istres, have also transported 830 French military personnel to Mali.

Photo: French Soldiers help the aircrew from the 4th Airlift Squadron, 62nd Airlift Wing, McChord Air Force Base unload French military cargo after their transportation flight January 25, 2013 from Base Aerienne 125, Istres, France to Mali. Flight included transportation of military vehicles, equipment, and personnel.

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