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Camp Mirage Monument


Camp Mirage

When the Government of Canada announced its participation in the American-led Operation Enduring Freedom, an operations base in the Middle East or South-west Asia was required. After an intensive effort to find a suitable location, Camp Mirage was established in the Emirate of Dubai. Over the next nine years, Camp Mirage was the hub for Canadian Forces operations in Afghanistan, supporting Operation Apollo, Operation Athena and Operation Archer.

Camp Mirage was the support hub for three different units. It was the terminus for the Strategic Airlift Detachment (SAL) which operated from November 2001 to May 2002, flying 590 transport missions (over 10 million lbs of cargo and 2?300 passengers from Canada to Germany and Camp Mirage). The Long Range Patrol Detachment (LRP), operating CP?140 Auroras was next to use Camp Mirage, conducting maritime surveillance in search of vessels and individuals of interest, flying over 500 missions between January 2002 and June 2003. Also in January of 2002, the CC?130 Hercules of the Tactical Airlift Detachment (TAL, later renamed the Tactical Airlift Unit) commenced operations, transporting people and supplies from Camp Mirage to Kandahar and Kabul. As with the SAL and LRP detachments, the Canadian aircraft were routinely employed supporting not only the Canadian Forces but allied forces as well. CC?130s were forward deployed to Kandahar airfield in support of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Canadian requirements. They conducted passenger and freight movements throughout Afghanistan as well as numerous air drop missions in support of ground forces.

Camp Mirage also supported operations other than Afghanistan: Op Iris, (humanitarian supplies to Baghdad in June 2003) and Op Caravan (545 passengers and over 1 million lbs of cargo in support of the Interim Emergency Multinational Force from Uganda to eastern Congo, July 2003).

On 3 November 2010, Camp Mirage was officially closed during a ceremony marking nine years of support to Canadian Forces operations in Afghanistan. During its time of operation, in excess of 78 million lbs of cargo and 244?000 passengers were transported through Camp Mirage.


The Monument

The idea of a monument to honour the memory of the fallen during the Afghan mission was born between June and December 2005, at Camp Mirage. Members of the Engineer Flight Services (EFS), endorsed by senior officers, felt compelled to initiate such a project, in reverence of all those who made the supreme sacrifice serving their country.

By June 2006, a plan was put in place: brass plates showing the name of the fallen, the crest of the unit they belonged to and the date would be attached to a pyramid like structure, with a spotlight installed inside and shining upward. An order to cut and polish the granite slabs went to a private company and EFS members assembled them on a concrete base. Subsequently, as the number of fallen increased, new structures were added sometime during 2007.

With this addition came the bas-relief Fallen, donated by Toronto artist Silvia Pecota. Bronze cast, with green patina, the sculpture illustrates a well known motif in western art imagery: the guardian angel. In 2007, when Pecota visited the troops in Afghanistan, she brought over the plaster mold of this sculpture. The Royal 22e Regiment, the Van Doos, offered to pay for the casting in bronze and 2 copies were created: no.?1 in the chapel that serves the International Forces in Kandahar, and no.?2 bolted to the Camp Mirage monument.

At its original location, the monument was placed outdoors, on a concrete platform surrounded by a perimeter of grass and stone tiles. The granite slabs including the metal plaque situated in front of the central structure, the name plates and the bronze cast were shipped back to Canada, but the concrete structures remained behind. The Canadian climate, so different from the constant dry environment and high temperatures in Middle East, dictated the choice of an indoor location.

The monument quickly became a landmark at Camp Mirage. This was noted by LCol Tom Dunne, the camp commander, during the monument departure ceremony: “Nearly every soldier, sailor, airman and airwoman who has worked in support of this mission has walked this path and laid eyes on this monument. It will return to glorify them on our native soil.”