Airmen Demonstrate Importance to Afghanistan
By Air Force Capt. David Faggard
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LIGHTNING, Afghanistan, Sept. 9, 2009 Joint expeditionary tasked airmen have two commanders: an Army commander responsible for their day-to-day missions, and an Air Force commander responsible for their administrative and operational control.
Air Force Capt. Steve Bursick gazes out at Forward Operating Base Lightning, Afghanistan, from an Army Black Hawk helicopter window, Aug. 30, 2009. Joint expeditionary tasked airmen work day to day for Army commanders at the forward operating base while assigned administratively to Air Force commanders at Bagram Airfield. U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. David Faggard
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
And both sing the praises of their airmen.
Army Lt. Col. Matt Smith, the task force commander here, said airmen are crucial in ensuring the joint and combined services achieve their missions.
"Airmen help fill a critical function in our headquarters and are doing an exceptional job - every one of them," he said. "One of my greatest fears is if the Air Force leaves us here; our operations run like a charm because of our airmen."
The wing commander responsible for all JET airmen in Afghanistan said airmen supporting the joint fight are examples of the Air Force's "all in" approach to the conflict.
"Mentoring and partnering with the Army, Navy and Afghan forces are crucial to this war effort," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Steven L. Kwast, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing commander. "Every airman has to be all in; you'll be more focused on the mission, and you'll ultimately be a better airman and person. Airmen will do anything [the joint community asks] of us, as long as we're trained to do the job correctly."
JET airmen are crucial to Afghanistan's future, Kwast said, noting that embedded training teams here are empowered to teach and mentor their Afghan counterparts.
Airmen at the Paktia Regional Medical Hospital mentor Afghans in techniques that might seem like the basics back home, but are revolutionary in this part of the world.
"We helped them safely transport blood from our hospital to another for the first time in history," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jason Levine, a laboratory technician at the hospital, who added that the basics of calibration and maintenance are new ideas for Afghan technicians. "It could have been a logistical nightmare, but now we've got a process that's repeatable and sustainable, thanks to the coordinated planning and efforts by airmen."
The procedures and processes being taught by the airmen are well received by their host.
Afghan National Army Col. (Dr.) Sultangal Totakhail noted that the airmen were instrumental in ensuring the hospital had enough supplies and blood on hand in case they were needed as the Aug. 20 national elections drew near.
"We understand our problems," he said through a translator. "We are thankful to the American people, and we're developing and making progress. We believe we have a great relationship with the U.S."
Visiting airmen in the remote portions of Afghanistan, Kwast told them they are extremely important to this war.
"Victory in counterinsurgency is getting the Afghans to believe we're here to help them defeat the enemy; that will win this war overnight," he told the airmen. "The moment that they believe we're here for the long haul to help them, we've won.
"This war isn't about dropping bombs, or how many of the enemy we can kill,” he continued. “It's about bringing hope to the Afghan people, and teaching them to do this for themselves."
JET airmen in Afghanistan are making history, the general added.
"You're at the foundation of this war, and this war will teach you to be a great airman and a great person," he said. "You'll be able to look back on this time here and tell your grandkids that you were at the bedrock of success of this great nation."
(Air Force Capt. David Faggard serves in the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing public affairs office.)