Click here for the PDF of the article as it originally appeared in the PAE employee magazine.
The Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was established in 2013 by the United Nations (UN) Security Council and is committed to supporting a just political process and peace within Mali. Over 45 UN member countries support MINUSMA by contributing troops (Troop Contributing Countries or TCCs), while other nations, including the United States, support MINUSMA with funding.
On behalf of the U.S. Department of State and in support of MINUSMA, PAE provides advisory support on equipment maintenance, spare parts and rapid logistics support to the TCCs.
Quick Response for Critical Missions
PAE supports African TCC units in Mali with advisory personnel and thousands of spare parts to maintain U.S. government furnished equipment (GFE) on loan to MINUSMA from the PAEoperated depot in Sierra Leone. PAE also supports equipment provided by a TCC's government, otherwise known as contingent owned equipment (COE). We provide equipment and personnel support at four remote and austere locations across Mali - Bamako, Timbuktu, Mopti-Sevare and Gao - with 15 international PAE staff and two local PAE national staff.
Making Personnel, Fuel and Medical Evacuation Flights Possible
PAE has two site locations in Bamako, a program management office in the city and a field office base at UN Senou Airbase Camp. The proximity of these sites to the TCC units, particularly the Ghana Aviation Unit (GHAV) and other UN units, allow PAE to provide critical support quickly.
"The GHAV is vital to the MINUSMA mission," explained PAE Regional Program Manager for West Africa Don Picklesimer. "This team is able to move MINUSMA personnel and airlift fuel to locations via fixed wing aircraft, rather than drive it, to avoid roadside attacks. The unit also does medical and casualty evacuation flights. Their job is incredibly important because the locations that require their support are often remote and difficult to access. Many aspects of the MINUSMA mission rely on TCC personnel being ready to go quickly to provide support."
PAE Keeps Lights On, Food Fresh and Crews Cool in Ghana
Recently, the GHAV experienced a technical problem with their primary generator, which led to power outages across the Ghana camp including food storage facilities. On the request of the aviation unit's commander, a PAE advisor inspected the generator and found the problem was a lack of maintenance service and an improperly balanced load, which he corrected with the aviation unit's technicians.
To prevent a similar problem in the future, the PAE advisor created a maintenance schedule for the generator for every 250 hours of use, which accounted for the wear and tear caused by Mali's dusty weather conditions, and his team regularly visits the camp to inspect and support the generator's performance.
PAE was able to provide similar support for the broken air conditioning systems on two new vehicles in the GHAV fleet. "They use the vehicles to transport pilots and crew back and forth from the airport," explained Don. "And with the high temperatures in Mali, a broken air conditioning system in the vehicle is an issue."
The aviation unit asked PAE to diagnose the problem and determine necessary repairs. "It was a great opportunity for the aviation unit's technician. He learned from the PAE advisor the steps needed to inspect and repair a vehicle's air conditioning system," said Don.
Supporting Convoy Missions Over Harsh Terrain
This small PAE team takes part in convoy operations, helping TCC units with breakdowns, recoveries and evacuations of GFE and COE equipment.
"The team constantly mobilizes outside the camps in response to TCC units' requests for advisory assistance on live missions," said Don. "Almost all of the time, these missions take the team to the troubled part of northern Mali. The advisory team deploys with the unit on convoys through the harsh terrain, and they embed with the soldiers during these missions, which can sometimes last for two weeks."
"The team proudly provides every available resource to ensure the TCC completes its mission successfully," said PAE Program Manager Akram Hemeidan.
Collaborative Relationship with the Ghana Aviation Unit
Rendering assistance is not a one-way street in PAE's partnership with the TCCs. "In February 2015, the PAE advisory team was challenged when constructing a septic tank and a large tent for a new workshop area," said Don. "The Ghanaian engineering unit rushed to assist. They helped us dig a spot for the septic tank using COE equipment and provided personnel to help assemble the tent. It is a collaborative relationship; one that was only established because of PAE's readiness and willingness to provide support when and where we're needed."
"Our mutually supportive relationship is extremely beneficial to our operations," said Akram. "[PAE] support allows us to do our job as quickly as possible. Sometimes the Ghanaian aviation unit flies critical spare parts that PAE needs to remote sites outside Bamako."
Continuous Peacekeeping Support in Mali Since 2003
PAE's involvement in peacekeeping operations in Mali dates back to 2003 when we helped develop the Malian Armed Forces' counterterrorism capabilities by equipping and training them under various DoS task orders.
In January 2013, under the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) task order, PAE provided fuel, rations, water, spare parts, equipment, vehicles and air support to Mali from the depot in Sierra Leone that PAE maintains through a separate contract on behalf of DoS.
PAE provided convoys to transport more than 100 vehicles and trailers, and more than 300 pieces of GFE including communications equipment and generators. The four convoys covered nearly 7,500 miles of underdeveloped road. PAE issued the equipment to African TCCs serving in AFISMA after training them on its use. The AFISMA peacekeeping mission transitioned to MINUSMA in July 2013.
"The work we are doing to support the TCCs is an essential part of the mission to stabilize Mali," said Don. "It is an honor to support the MINUSMA mission. As we say, 'No burden too heavy ... teamwork is our framework.'"