Ramstein Airmen fly with BDF into Darfur

Capt. Erin Dorrance
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***Ramstein Airmen flew with a Botswana Defence Force C-130 crew to the Darfur region of Sudan Sept. 23 and 24 to support the African Union peacekeeping mission there.

Two C-130 crewmembers from the 86th Operations Support Squadron, aerial porters from the 86th Air Mobility Squadron, and a force protection specialist from the 786th Security Forces Squadron joined the Botswana C-130 crew that transported 56 Ugandan civil police personnel into Darfur.

The bilateral operation was an example of two governments working together to share experiences and knowledge.

“It is a cultural exchange in which we both learn lessons that make us better aircrew members,” said Capt. Tino Phuthego, Botswana C-130 pilot, who has accrued more than 900 flight hours in the aircraft. “In the end, we make friends as well.”

Ramstein’s C-130 crewmembers agreed that the bilateral operation was influential.

“There was a natural aviator-to-aviator camaraderie between us,” said Maj. Jim Wandmacher, 86th OSS C-130 navigator. “Even though we are located thousands of miles from each other, we have common experiences and are able to build on those by sharing techniques and ideas.”

“I feel privileged to participate in this operation with a foreign country,” said Staff Sgt. Vern Miles, 86th OSS C-130 loadmaster. “These opportunities enhance my C-130 knowledge and make me more efficient in my job.”

The flights were not only a cultural exchange of C-130 knowledge; they were a historical benchmark in Botswana’s history. This was the first time Botswana provided airlift into Darfur in support of the African Union’s peacekeeping mission.

Captain Phuthego said the flights were important to his crew because it boiled down to Africans helping Africans.

“It feels great to be able to support in the African Union mission,” he said. “We all live on this continent and it is important to help each other.”

Major Wandmacher and Sergeant Miles said they were honored to participate in the monumental flight and impressed by the professionalism and enthusiasm the Botswanans possessed to take part in the mission.