The first half of October was incredibly busy for Task Force Jamaica; the team reached a new milestone and completed our first weather-related mission since our deployment in mid-August.
During the weekend of 15–16 October, while most Jamaicans were enjoying a long weekend culminating in National Heroes’ Day (celebrated annually on the third Monday in October), the helicopter crews of Task Force Jamaica completed their 200th mission and flew a night rescue mission in support of the Jamaica Defence Force.
“With the heavy rains of Saturday morning (15 October), we exercised due diligence in ordering a second crew to be ready in case a call was received from the Jamaica Defence Force,” said Major Fred Eidt, Deputy Commander of Task Force Jamaica. “As it turned out, we needed to deploy only one crew, but it was to help rescue Jamaicans trapped as a result of the steady rainfall.”
The heavy rain forecast for the weekend — some 59 mm fell on Saturday and Sunday — caused the Jamican government to issue a flash-flood warning for the low-lying and flood-prone areas of the island’s eastern and central parishes. On Sunday evening, the Jamaica Defence Force received a call for help: several people, including a pregnant woman, were cut off at Hordley Cross in the parish of St. Thomas.
“When we arrived on scene, our Jamaica Defence Force colleagues were already evacuating some of those trapped,” said Captain Martin Canuel, aircraft commander of the responding CH-146 Griffon helicopter. “We were able to lift six people into our helicopter by double-hoist, which is when an individual is hoisted along with a search-and-rescue technician.”
The Jamaica Defence Force and Task Force Jamaica brought a total of 12 people to the safety of St. Thomas Technical High School in nearby Duckenfield.
The search-and-rescue callout — Task Force Jamaica’s 14th sortie in support of the Jamaica Defence Force — came on the heels of the Task Force’s 200th flight, a search-and-rescue force-generation mission flown over Jamaica on Friday, 14 October.
Only a week before, Task Force Jamaica hosted a visit by Lieutenant-General Stuart Beare, commander of Canadian Expeditionary Force Command, and the CEFCOM Command Chief Warrant Officer, CWO Jorma Hamalainen, who arrived with Commander’s and Command Chief’s Coins for four members of Task Force Jamaica. Master Corporal Alain Proulx of 19 Wing Comox and Corporal Charley Fabre of 439 Combat Support Squadron at 3 Wing Bagotville received the Commander’s Coin, and Capt Kendra Bencun of 439 Squadron received the Command Chief’s Coin. Sergeant Bruno Lapointe of 424 Training and Rescue Squadron at 8 Wing Trenton has already returned to his home unit, so he will receive the Command Chief’s Coin there.
Operation JAGUAR continues, so Task Force Jamaica will mark Remembrance Day in Kingston while conducting flying operations and essential search-and-rescue force-generation training. We expect to redeploy to Canada in late November.
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