By Senior Airman David Carbajal
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
9/28/2011 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- The Air Forces Central Command senior enlisted airman visited members of the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit here Sept. 24 to applaud the unit for a successful deployment to Kandahar Airfield.
"On behalf of Lieutenant General (David) Goldfein and the thousands of service members on the ground, we thank you," said Command Chief Master Sgt. Richard Parsons, who previously oversaw the fighter squadron's operations as the command chief at the 23rd Wing at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. "I talk to 'ground guys' every day and they thank you for what you do."
The fighter squadron, deployed from Moody AFB, flew an area-of-responsibility record 16,000 hours supporting Operation Enduring Freedom during its tenure here. This feat would take the unit approximately three years to accumulate at home station, said Senior Master Sgt. Ken Francis, 74th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit.
With only 18 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, the fighter squadron aided "troops in contact" more than 500 times and flew more than 600 priority missions here. The unit dropped more than 220 joint direct attack munitions and fired more than 74,000 high explosive incendiary rounds during their 3,800 sorties.
"Those sorties have impact," said Parsons. "They allow ground forces the opportunity to return home safely."
On average, the fighter squadron has at least two A-10s flying to support operations throughout the country at any given moment.
The maintenance crews played a significant role in the fighter squadron supporting those troops on the ground, said Parsons.
"Over the last six months the AMU (Aircraft Maintenance Unit) and Maintenance Squadron teamed up to complete a record 35 phase inspection," said Francis. "The outstanding teamwork between the two squadron reduced aircraft downtime enabling the AMU to keep lethal iron in the air to support ground forces."
Parsons also attributes their expeditious maintenance time to what the unit members learned while stateside.
"They've been through inspections at home and used those skills to do great things out here," Parsons added. "I could not be prouder of these guys," said Parsons.
"It was great to see them and hear that even though the deployment was hard on the family, it was all worth it," the chief added.
Over the next several weeks, the fighter squadron and maintenance units will depart KAF and reintegrate with their families in Georgia.
The maintenance units have also enabled the fighter squadron to continue their success once they get home.
"The Airmen seem really excited to head home and they have a great base and community support system there to help them transition," the chief added.
Chief Master Sgt. Richard Parsons, AFCENT command chief, speaks to deployed Airmen at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 24, 2011. The Airmen are assigned to the 74th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and the 74th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Hook)