Royal Canadian Air Force

Royal Canadian Air Force
Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence

August 26, 2011 12:13 ET

Canada's Last Air Wing Commander Welcomed Home from Afghanistan

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Aug. 26, 2011) - Colonel Al Meinzinger, the last commander of Canada's Air Wing in Afghanistan, and members of his team returned home from Afghanistan earlier this morning.

"Those who served with the Air Wing can be proud of their accomplishments as they have made incredible contributions to improving security for our soldiers and our NATO partners," said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence. "They exceeded all expectations, working long hours in very difficult conditions in order to keep the Air Wing fully operational at all times. They were never afraid to put themselves at risk to ensure mission success."

On arrival, at the Ottawa International Airport, they were met by friends and family, General Walt Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff, and Lieutenant-General André Deschamps, Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

"I am very proud of Colonel Meinzinger's team and their accomplishments in Afghanistan," said General Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff. "To the families who supported them while they were away, I say 'thank you' for all they did and for the sacrifices they made. Today is their day to celebrate, and our day to mark a well-earned homecoming."

The Joint Task Force Afghanistan (JTF-Afg) Air Wing stood up at Kandahar Airfield on December 6, 2008, with 200 personnel and quickly grew to its final operating strength of 450 personnel. Over the three years of operations, the JTF-Afg Air Wing transported more than 200,000 passengers, has cumulated close to 100,000 hours flown, and has moved over 37,000,000 pounds of cargo.

"Today's return of members of the Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing marks a great milestone in our Air Force history. Colonel Meinzinger, his airmen and airwomen, and their predecessors have displayed great flexibility and agility in providing aviation and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance effects to the many mission partners active in the ISAF battle-space. They have given Canadians from across the country a newfound pride in our airmen and airwomen in uniform," said LGen Deschamps, Commander of the RCAF. "He and everyone who has served with the Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing have distinguished themselves on the international stage."

The JTF-Afg Air Wing officially marked the end of its operations on August 18, 2011, at Kandahar Airfield in a ceremony attended by key leaders of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), as well as the Canadian Forces members deployed at Kandahar Airfield with the JTF-Afg Air Wing and the Mission Transition Task Force.

"The Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing represents the first time an Air Wing, complete with requisite infrastructure, has ever been deployed into a theatre of operations," said Col Meinzinger. "Before the Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing was stood up in 2008, the Tactical Air Unit -Task Force Canuck- was operating, flying CC-130 Hercules aircraft. The motto of the Tactical Air Unit appropriately is: First In, Last Out. And so they will make this motto true once more. Task Force Canuck will continue operating in Afghanistan until November 2011."

A biography of Colonel Meinzinger can be found here:

For information on JTF-Afg Air Wing, please visit the following link:

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