CAF Story | Get Out the Door

Video / September 01, 2023


So, the bell rings and this is not a test, this is not a drill, this is real. We had missions before that, but not to this scale. This was a massive attack and Canada was about to go out the door into the unknown.

I am Chief Warrant Officer Glen Slauenwhite. I did two tours of Bosnia within three years of each other. Four years later, I was in Afghanistan. Three years after that, I was with the Navy when they deployed to Haiti. You're sitting around with other NCOs or other friends and you're talking, like, I haven't been out the door in five, six years and I'm getting itchy. You didn't sign up to sit in a classroom. You didn't sign up to do online courses. You signed up to get out the door and render effect. When the Mali mission popped up, I was doing everything I could to get on that mission.

2012, Tuareg rebellion happened. There were factions that were trying to separate the country, some Islamic terrorist factions that were working through the area as well. The country had fallen into chaos. If Mali can be controlled by some form of authority and they can regulate the movement through that area, you can remove a lot of drug and human and weapons trafficking. The mission had been running for about five years at that point. There was some capabilities and capacities that they didn't have on station. That was where Canada came in with heavy lift capacity as well as MedEvac. That was our two main roles. The first thing I did was look at our watch. We had four or five months in which to build this capacity, build the mission, and get out the door.

I had never been on a UN mission. I had never been on a Roto 0. I had never been a senior NCO. I had never been to Africa. There was so much we had to learn. This is why you join. This isn't the job. This isn't going to an office or going to a factory. This is way beyond that. These are new conditions for a lot of people. You prepare for them, but when you get on the ground it's a whole different creature. This is just one example, dust storms. We were on the ground maybe 36 hours. It's day one. I don't even know my name at this point. This is a system that's a mile high and 250 kilometres long. It's advancing about 70 kilometres an hour. This is a wall of sand and dirt and rain and mess that's coming at you and it's not going to wait for you.

The very first boots on the ground representing Canada on the UN stage, it's a really cool feeling. Just before I am about to roll out, the attack on Aguelhok happened. We had missions before that, but not to this scale. Towards the end of January, there was a coordinated attack on one of the northern UN bases. Dozens of people are victims, injuries, deaths, just getting overrun. Everybody's acting here. Watch everybody pick up and go, it's stunning. It is a massive, massive undertaking, a lot of moving parts going, but seamless, absolutely seamless. Before you know it, inside a couple of minutes, your blades are spinning and a few minutes after that they're up and going, and that bird can haul. We were more than just a taxi or an ambulance, we were a flying trauma center running back and forth, picking people up, loading people in. Security is on the ground making sure that the aircraft is safe. Medics are doing their fantastic work getting people assessed and moving people into that aircraft and getting them back to our hospitals in Gao or wherever else we had to take them. Sector commanders are coming in and praising what we can do. It was hard to have to shut it down and pack up and send it home a year later.

The way that we could take from a bunch of different capacities and within a couple of months bolt them together to create air MedEvac, practice it on Maple Resolve, deploy it, and employ it while we're in Africa, mind-blowing. I feel very fortunate to have been on the Mali mission, to be on Roto 0, to help reestablish Canada in that traditional UN-style peacekeeping role that we've been so famous for since the 50s and helping achieve a lasting, stable peace in a lot of places that need it right now. I do think about the mission in Mali a lot. A lot of the things we did, the people that we helped out, the people that we worked with, it's never forgotten. It's always ... there's relationships you build that carry on now across nations, across forces. Yeah, Mali is constantly on my mind.

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