The ISAF mission in Afghanistan is, by its very nature, a multinational, multi-Service one. However, there are few units that embody this international partnership better than the Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan) [JHF(A)].
JHF(A) forms part of the Joint Aviation Group, commanded by Group Captain Nick Laird.
This in turn forms part of the US 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), commanded by Brigadier General Andrew W O’Donnell Jr – a relatively new combined organisation that began on 1 June this year.
Since then, the two forces have been operating in unison under Brigadier General O’Donnell’s authority as the sole aviation combat element of Regional Command (South West) – the command responsible for operations in Helmand and Nimruz provinces.
They have completely pooled their resources and manpower in order to support the missions across one of the most dangerous and influential regions in Afghanistan.
However, it is not just the command chain that JHF(A) sits within that makes it so diverse. Within the force itself there are no fewer than seven nationalities, with personnel from the UK, the US, Canada, South Africa, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand.
Lieutenant Colonel Mike McGinty, Army Air Corps, Commanding Officer of JHF(A), said:
“JHF(A) is joint and multinational at its very core. I have detachment commanders from the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the Army and the Royal Air Force.
“In fact we’ve been doing this so long that we don’t see the colour of each other’s uniforms anymore, although this doesn’t mean that there is a lack of healthy inter-Service banter!
“We also have a large number of our allies embedded within our forces, whether permanently or on exchange. This highlights the fact that they are our allies, and not just our neighbours.
“Throughout this tour I expect to command US Marines, US Navy, US Air Force, Australian Navy, Danish Air Force, Canadian Air Force and New Zealand Air Force personnel and it is this depth of knowledge and experience which allows us to co-operate so well with the MAW [3rd Marine Aircraft Wing].
“Our military multiculturalism helps not only drive forward our work with our ISAF allies, but more importantly with our Afghan National Security Forces partners, as seen with the recent support given to the Afghan Air Force for the parliamentary elections.”