by Senior Airman Melissa B. White
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
1/1/2011 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- As they wrap up their first calendar year of existence, the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, has a lot to reflect upon and expectations to live up to as they move into 2011.
"The men and women of the 451st AEW continue to amaze me and exceed expectations on a daily basis," said Brig. Gen. Paul Johnson, 451st AEW commander. "With their professionalism and dedication, our mission has a powerful effect assisting our ground commanders in the AOR where they need it most. I'm confident that the new year will bring new challenges, but our Airmen will find better and more efficient ways to overcome these challenges, proving we are still the world's greatest air force."
The wing, which was stood up July 2, 2009, is very diverse and supports a wide range of missions ranging from airlift and close air support to rescue and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Their mission is to provide a persistent and powerful presence of airpower using seven types of aircraft.
"Let there be no doubt that this is a demanding combat environment - we work hard, long hours and we are challenged - but the time goes quickly and this deployment is the experience of a lifetime," the general tells 451st AEW Airmen in his welcome letter. "Done right, our mission will enable the Afghan government to provide internal security with limited international support. We will also disrupt and destroy terrorist networks in Afghanistan, degrading any ability to plan and launch international terrorist attacks."
After transforming from a group to a wing in 2009, there was a large growth of U.S. Air Force presence in Kandahar. However, the wing continued to grow and flourish in 2010 growing to nearly 2,000 Airmen during late summer due to the surge of forces.
Along with the growth in numbers of people, the wing also grew in other ways. They started out the year by standing up a contingency aeromedical staging facility and aeromedical evacuation team at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Civil engineers teamed up with Slovakian Armed Forces to build a new passenger terminal for the entire airfield here. Communications Airmen ran thousands of miles of cable to support new and expanding Air Force units at Camp Bastion. In March, the wing also stood up the new aeromedical evacuation squadron at Kandahar Airfield. In the same month, they welcomed the wing's newest airframe: the MC-12 Liberty, a manned special-mission turboprop aircraft designed for ISR.
As the year continued, a new rescue unit was activated at Camp Bastion, putting the HC-130P Combat Kings back in business in Afghanistan for the first time in years. Maintainers, who are caring for the 45-year-old aircraft, are credited with keeping the aircraft in operation nearly 90 percent of the time - a feat for the 1965 models.
While some Airmen were busy flying and rescuing, security forces and other Airmen in the wing played a vital role in defending the base during two ground attacks, one in May and the other in August. Also in August, the C-130 Hercules crews set a record by making historic contributions in the area of responsibility by conducting combat airdrop missions and delivering more than 8.5 million pounds of supplies to troops at forward operating bases during a 16-month period. That same month, munitions Airmen also stepped up their production of munitions supporting the busy close air support mission, ultimately protecting troops and Afghans from enemy forces on the ground.
Later in the year, aeromedical evacuation Airmen worked with Afghan Air Force counterparts to complete their first joint effort of patient movement. Medics also continued to work with the Afghans on an ongoing basis while many other Airmen supported them in other ways, including celebrating the Kandahar Air Wing's first birthday with them. Members of the 451st Honor Guard also worked with the Afghans as they developed their own honor guard - a first for the Afghan forces.
The year continued with some other events. In October, the weather flight kept things on the base running smoothly as they kept everyone informed of the first rain in more than five months, and the only rain since. The A-10 Thunderbolt II Airmen stepped up their operations in October and November to support an increasing amount of requests for support from ground forces; they expended more munitions in those two months alone than the A-10 units for the wing collectively discharged in the previous 15 months. In November, the pararescuemen at Camp Bastion brought back the ability to administer blood on rescue missions, saving lives within days of approval due to the enhancement.
Throughout the year, all the flying units under the wing collectively flew nearly 37,000 sorties, supporting more than 1,000 troops in contact on the ground, and saving close to 2,000 people on rescue missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"To watch a basic aircrew on their second mission in the theater conduct a nighttime airdrop to a special operations team deep in contested territory with a drop that was on target in a tight landing zone within two seconds of the requested timing, simply amazed me. To go on to watch a fighter squadron and all of the associated maintenance move their entire operation to another location while continuing to fly out a combat air tasking order is incredible to say the least," said Chief Master Sgt. Antonio Hickey, 451st AEW command chief. "There is no other place I would rather be than serving shoulder-to-shoulder with each of you as we defend America and help the Afghans secure their country."
With 2010 at a close, the Airmen have come a long way and raised the bar high, but will be challenged to stay strong and to continue raising the standards as they support the base in the new year.
An A-10C Thunderbolt II pilot lands at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan Sept. 27, 2010. Throughout 2010, all the flying units under the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing collectively flew nearly 37,000 sorties, supporting more than 1,000 troops in contact on the ground, and saving close to 2,000 people on rescue missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron is deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Chisholm) Hi-res
Note: It's A-10C 80-0208 from the 75th Fighter Squadron, arriving Kandahar Airfield after the last deployment stopover at Al Udeid AB, Qatar. This Hog is deployed with the 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (75th EFS).
"The A-10 Thunderbolt II Airmen stepped up their operations in October and November to support an increasing amount of requests for support from ground forces; they expended more munitions in those two months alone than the A-10 units for the wing collectively discharged in the previous 15 months."