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2  Kosovo campaign fighter pilot proud of newly announced battle honours

Lieutenant-Colonel Alain Pelletier, Canada's Air Force, 8/2/2008


The recent announcement by the Chief of the Defence Staff that the battle honour "KOSOVO" has been awarded to 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) of 3 Wing Bagotville and 441 Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) of 4 Wing Cold Lake for their active participation in the Kosovo conflict in 1999 awakened memories and pride in those of us who took part in this air offensive.

In fact, despite the passage of time, the former members of Task Force Aviano (TFA), also known as the "Balkan Rats", are still proud that they had the chance to demonstrate the combat capabilities of their fighter forces in the waning years of a century that saw the addition of air weapons to the arsenal of leading-edge armed forces.

Former members of TFA can be instantly recognized by the decorations they wear proudly on their uniforms. Until very recently, however, the air units that took part in this conflict wore no marks of recognition. This explains why the granting of this battle award for our participation in the Kosovo conflict is an historic occasion that will help perpetuate the memory of the participants.

A Canadian CF-18 Hornet fighter pilot takes off from Aviano Air Base in Italy for a mission over the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. Canadian Task Force Aviano numbered more than 250 Canadian Air Force personnel. Credit: MCpl Danielle Bernier.

The Kosovo campaign battle honour will be the ninth honour to be added to 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron’s colours later this year. Credit: 425 TFS.

Battle honours are awarded to combat units, in this case operational air squadrons, in recognition of their engagement with enemy forces. They also serve to commemorate a campaign whose memory should be a constant source of pride for the unit involved. And there is pride, both now and for the future, for the members of the four units involved: 416 Tactical Fighter Squadron, 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron, 433 Tactical Fighter Squadron and 441 Tactical Fighter Squadron.

Certainly, some people will ask why 416 TFS and 433 TFS will not be receiving the same honours; the reason is simple: these decorations are awarded to a unit when a majority of its members is directly involved in the conflict. In this case, 425 TFS was the unit deployed at the outbreak of hostilities on March 24,1999; 425 TFS was subsequently replaced by 441 TFS as the main unit in the conflict in April 1999.

During the three months of the conflict, 416 TFS and 433 TFS provided active support to force generation in Kosovo, in addition to deploying reinforcement personnel. These two units, however, did not form the central core of the Aviano detachment, which makes them ineligible for the battle honours. This in no way diminishes the operational support provided by these two distinguished units, which also contributed to the operation's success.

It is accordingly with a great deal of pride that 425 TFS will receive its battle honour within the next few months. When the new standard displaying the battle honour for Kosovo, as well as the eight existing honours from the Second World War, is presented by the Governor General or her representative, the dedication and combat capability shown by the members of 425 TFS, 433 TFS and their CF-18 aircraft during this conflict will finally be preserved for posterity.