RCAF brings last troops home from Afghanistan

News Article / March 18, 2014

By Joanna Calder

The CC-177 Globemaster III, escorted by two CF-18 Hornet fighter jets from 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec, circled gracefully and in perfect formation around the Department of National Defence’s headquarters building in Ottawa and then turned south towards the Ottawa airport.

Onboard the Globemaster, which is operated by 429 Transport Squadron, located at 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario, were more than 90 passengers who have written a page in the history of Canada. They were the last Canadian troops to leave Afghanistan at the end of more than 12 years of Canadian Armed Forces operations there.

Colonel Paul Prévost, a former commander of 3 Wing Bagotville who has both flown a CF-18 escorting previous flights home and been a passenger returning from Afghanistan, told CFRA radio’s Steve Madely what it’s like.

“What I remember the most about that trip was the way the troops react on the plane. They get excited pretty quick. They’re tired, most of them are sleeping, but as soon as they realize the CF-18s are there everyone is awake and around.

“Within a few minutes you can feel the excitement even sitting in the F-18s. All those little windows on the side of the airplane get filled pretty quick with about three faces and six hands each waving at you. It’s a great moment, great moment,” he said.

“You [the escort pilots] are the first Canadian to welcome them home,” he continued.  “It’s a great honour for us and it’s a great way for the RCAF to mark their return.

Governor General David Johnston, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson and General Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, welcomed the troops at the Canada Reception Centre at the airport a little after 9 a.m. this morning.

“Returning men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, as your Commander in Chief, I salute you. And as your Governor General, I welcome you back to Canada with gratitude and in humility,” said Governor General Johnston. “You have served with courage, sacrificed your lives, and endured the extremes both of climate and of separation from family and friends. Through it all, you have proved your diligence, your toughness and your compassion for the plight of others.”

“To honour that exemplary service [of our troops], I am very pleased to announce that May 9, 2014, has been declared a 'National Day of Honour' by Royal Proclamation, in recognition and commemoration of Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan,” said Prime Minister Harper.

“Through this National Day, Canadians will have the opportunity to reflect on the courage and sacrifices made by our soldiers.”