Operation PRESERVE

International Information

International Operation Name: Operation PRESERVE

International Mission Name: Operation PRESERVE

Mandating Organization: Government of Canada

Region Name: Africa

Location: Ethiopia

Mission Date: 2 August 1991 - 12 December 1991

Canadian Forces (CF) Information (PRESERVE)

Canadian Task Force Name Mission Statement: To airlift food and other relief supplies from Djibouti to distribution centres within Ethiopia.

CF Mission/Operation Notes: Going into a fourth year of drought, the harvest in Ethiopia for 1991 threatened to be even worse than that of 1985. The UN requested Canada’s assistance in getting relief supplies to isolated areas such as the northern and central highlands and the Ogaden desert. In July 1991 the CF sent a Hercules with a recce team to Ethiopia to see if the CF could contribute in this potential humanitarian disaster. Approval for assistance to the UN’s World Food Programme was given on 2 August under the name Operation PRESERVE.

Op Preserve would consist of a team of 60 personnel - aircrew, groundcrew, signalers and air movements personnel - and three CF Hercules, operating out of Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. The Hercs came from CFB Edmonton and CFB Trenton. Personnel came from 426, 429, 435 and 436 Squadrons, and other bases across Canada.

Aircraft and personnel began operations on 12 August. Two aircraft would be operational at any one time, the third being rotated for maintenance. The flights would start in Djibouti, leaving about 5:00 AM. They went to four different airfields throughout Ethiopia (Dire Dawa , Gode, Kabridar and Makale), with a total of six to eight flights being conducted daily to mainly gravel fields. Such wear and tear increased the burden on maintenance staff, while the lack of automated equipment meant that cargo normally 360 to 400 sacks of grain each weighing about 50 kilograms - had to be unloaded by hand.

Weekly support flights arrived from Lahr. Besides mail, supplies and parts for the Hercs, the flights also brought replacement personnel. Due to the high flying rate during the initial period, the initial contingent was rotated out at the start of September 1991. Thereafter the rotations were on a monthly basis. Scheduled to last until 12 November, the deployment was later extended to 12 December when in mid-October, the Canadian Embassy in Addis Ababa identified the need for another month of airlift. This was approved by 29 October.

The last flights for Op Preserve were conducted on 11 December. By that time the three CF Hercs had delivered over 33 million tons of grain and food aid, almost one half of the total aid delivered. Over 240 personnel participated in the operation.

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