An RCAF detachment, named Task Force PANAM and composed of an element of the CF-18 fighter force including the 2012 CF-18 Demonstration Team, with airlift and air to air refuelling support, conducted Operation SOUTHERN REACH from May 5 to 26, 2012 to increase its professional bonds with air forces in South America and Jamaica.
The final phase of the deployment saw the detachment landing in Kingston, Jamaica on 22 May. This particular destination was a natural fit for the operation as Canada and Jamaica enjoy close, longstanding, and historic bilateral relations that include hemispheric and international cooperation, as well as security and defence cooperation.
The CF has a well-established relationship with the Jamaican Defence Force (JDF) through the Military Training and Cooperation Program (MTCP), which serves to enhance peace support operations interoperability among Canada’s partners, and recently, Canada has assisted Jamaica in the construction and development of its Jamaican Military Aviation School. The school will provide both helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft training to pilots throughout the Caribbean.
Upon arrival in Jamaica on the evening of Tuesday, May 22, the detachment wasted no time in meeting with their JDF hosts to begin coordinating the next day’s agenda, which included two exchange CF-18 flights with local dignitaries and the main event, the participation of the CF-18 Demonstration Team along with the pilots and crew of the CC-130J Hercules at an air show.
Not to be outdone by the Brazilians in Pirassununga, the Jamaican crowd that assembled along the harbour front in Kingston was extremely demonstrative in their amazement and appreciation of the two aerial displays. The Hercules air demonstration was particularly significant, as the aircraft was co-piloted by native Jamaican Captain Damar Walker, a CF pilot who was born in Spanish Town.
“I haven’t been back home to Jamaica in so long, “ said Captain Walker, “yet it still feels incredible to be back now and representing the Canadian Air Force. I am a proud Canadian through and through.”
For the CF-18 demonstration, the spectators were taken by surprise having never previously witnessed such a display within their airspace. Eyes strained upwards trying to catch a glimpse of the striking Demo Hornet that passes by so quickly. The noise of the jet appeared to be a complete shock to many as they covered their ears and even ducked, laughing, at each pass by the crowd. Shouts of amazement could be heard everywhere among the onlookers, young and old.
Despite the excitement of the air show event, the true intended purpose of the stopover in Jamaica was to conduct an exchange visit and reinforce the CF’s continuing 45-year-old relationship with the JDF. For this important purpose, MGen Alain Parent, Commander 1 Canadian Air Division, joined up with the detachment in Kingston and on Thursday morning met with the JDF’s Chief of the Defence Staff, Major-General Antony Anderson.
The importance of trust cannot be underestimated, explained MGen Parent. For two countries that work so closely together, it is vital that they take the time to nurture a respectful yet friendly rapport. a relationship makes difficult tasks all the easier. A carefully developed relationship makes all the difference when the time eventually comes for rapid action to be taken. Such was the case two years ago with Operation Hestia when Canada’s Air Force needed to quickly establish an air bridge to Haiti in support of the humanitarian efforts after the country was ravaged by an immense earthquake. Jamaica was an important partner in our ability to deploy rapidly, providing an efficient airfield from which to stage and facilitate the transport of personnel, equipment and critical humanitarian supplies.
“Such an ambitious undertaking could not have been as smoothly achieved without Jamaica’s generous cooperation,” said MGen Parent, adding that visits such as the one made possible through Op Southern Reach are the best way to cement bilateral relationships. “A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a visit is worth a thousand pictures.”
The final portion of the three-week long deployment wrapped up with two more familiarization flights with MGen Anderson and the other with Jamaican Minister of National Security, Peter Bunting on the Friday. By Saturday evening, May 26, the redeployment to Canada had been concluded with the arrival of the three CF-18s and the CC-130J at 3 Wing, Bagotville, Quebec.
"On a practical level, we have demonstrated our ability to deploy and operate at long distances. We flew our demonstration aircraft in Brazil and Jamaica and participated in operational exchanges with the Air Force of Chile, "said LCol Louis-Henri Remillard, Op Southern Reach’s detachment commander. “Yet on a more profound level, we have succeeded in increasing engagement and enhancing our professional bonds with partner nations within the Western Hemisphere. Ultimately, this sets the stage for enduring relationships that can only benefit Canada.”