This month, Governor General Michaëlle Jean awarded Brigadier-General Chris Coates, the commander of 1 Wing Kingston, Ontario and the first commander of Task Force Silver Dart – the Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing (JTF-Afg Air Wing) – the Meritorious Service Medal (Military Division)
The citation reads:
“Under pressure to get the newly formed air wing operational as soon as possible, he overcame numerous logistical challenges to ensure the rapid introduction of critical aviation capabilities to Afghanistan. Colonel Coates’ efforts have augmented Canadian operational capability, enhancing the security and mobility of ground forces across the theatre of operations.”
BGen Coates – who commanded from November 2008 to April 2009 – was promoted to that rank on June 14, and has been appointed Deputy Commander of Continental NORAD Region at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.
Task Force Silver Dart consists of all Canadian Forces air assets deployed in southwest Asia. It was created at Kandahar Airfield in December of 2008, with the 200 Air Force personnel already in the theatre of operations, and quickly increased to its current operating strength of 450 people.
TF Silver Dart is commanded by an Air Force officer holding the rank of colonel and consists of:
•Task Force Freedom, the Canadian Aviation Battalion, operating CH-147D Chinook medium to heavy-lift helicopters and CH-146 Griffon escort helicopters,
•Task Force Erebus, the Canadian Heron UAV Detachment, operating the CU-170 Heron unmanned aerial vehicle.
•Task Force Canuck, consisting of the Tactical Airlift Unit and the Theatre Support Element, operate the CC-130 Hercules, providing aviation, technical and logistics support services to CF personnel and units deployed in the southwest Asia theatre of Operation.
Additional air support is provided by the CC-177 Globemaster III and CC-150 Polaris. Canadian Contracted Aviation Transport also utilizes contracted Mi-8s and KA-32s to transport cargo.
In a a recent interview with Army News in Ottawa, BGen Coates described the award as quite humbling. and described it as a team effort.
“We were a team that was brought together to bring aviation and air support to Afghanistan. The team came from all over our Air Force – the fighter community, tactical helicopter aviation, uninhabited aerial vehicles and the transport community that had been operating there for years and years.
“So while I’m very appreciative of the honour, I think it reflects well on the work that was done by all the airmen and airwomen who are working in Afghanistan. ”
Canada’s Air Force has been in the southwest Asia theatre of operations since 2001, when it began air transport and maritime surveillance operations under Operation Apollo.