Go Bold #6: Stories from the Cockpit: LtCol Forrest Rock on RCAF Air Task Force – Romania (Block 51)


LtCol Forrest Rock (Middle)


RCAF CF-18 with Romanian MiG-21’s

One of our goals at Go Bold is to preserve history from first-hand perspectives. For this episode, I chat with Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Lieutenant-Colonel Forrest Rock, Commander of Air Task Force – Romania (2019).


ATF-Romania is the air component of Operation REASSURANCE, Canada’s contribution to NATO assurance and deterrence measures in Central and Eastern Europe.


Our chat happened in January 2020, soon after the detachment concluded operations at Mihail Kogӑlniceanu Airbase for Block 51 of NATO’s Enhanced Air Policing mission. LtCol Rock was still in Romania at the time of our conversation, so his thoughts were as current as could be!


The Enhanced Air Policing mission reinforces NATO’s collective defence, demonstrating the Alliance’s combined strength and solidarity to any potential airspace aggressor. It is part of NATO assurance and deterrence measures introduced in 2014 after Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea.


For this iteration of ATF-Romania, the RCAF sent CF-18 fighter jets from 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron, which is home-based at CFB Cold Lake. They were supported by personnel from all over Canada, primarily from 2 Air Expeditionary Wing, 3 Wing Bagotville, and 19 Wing Comox.


You’ll hear about the planning required to deploy to Europe, the transit across the Atlantic ocean, and some of the logistic elements required to establish their detachment in Romania.


You’ll hear about their Quick Reaction Alert responses and how the detachment shadowed and intercepted “tracks of interest” including Russian Su-24 Fencer and Be-12 Mail aircraft.


In addition to the Enhanced Air Policing mission, the ATF conducted regular training with their Romanian counterparts, including flight operations, emergency response, flight safety, aircraft maintenance, command and control, and military policing.


ATF-Romania also participated in several multinational and joint training exercises such as Exercise Silver Arrow in Latvia, Exercise Blue Bridge 19, and Exercise Ramstein Dust.


If that wasn’t enough, the ATF also did over 200 hours of community outreach where they helped orphanages and helped to purchase equipment for the Center for Children with Disabilities.


At the conclusion of the 2019 iteration of ATF-Romania, LtCol Rock issued the following statement:

“It has been a tremendous honour for the members of Air Task Force-Romania 2019 to work along side our Romanian and regional NATO Allies. Whether fulfilling our NATO enhanced Air Policing mandate or participating in the multitude of multinational joint training opportunities with our Romanian MiG-21 and F-16 counterparts, the Romanian, French, and US Navy, the Bulgarian Air Force, or Task Force Latvia, our efforts have clearly demonstrated Canada’s reliability and commitment to NATO collective defence from both a deterrence and assurance perspective. The members of this Task Force have once again demonstrated the value and capabilities of our Canadian Armed Forces and further solidified Canada’s reputation as a reliable defence partner.”


We commend 401 TFS Squadron and all the members of ATF-Romania for the work they did, and for helping the community there were part of during their 4 month deployment.


Thank you LtCol Rock for sharing your experiences and perspectives.


Go Bold!