BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --
The additional air assets recently realigned to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan are bringing increased capability that attack Taliban networks and also support U.S. personnel embedded with Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
Beginning in mid-January 2018, A-10C Thunderbolt IIs, HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and added MQ-9 Reapers arrived at Kandahar to meet an uptick in airpower requirements in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and the NATO Resolute Support mission.
The aircraft provide a variety of airpower capabilities such as close air support and personnel recovery, which is especially vital as U.S. Army advisors of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade deploy to train and advise their Afghan counterparts on the ground.
“Kandahar Airfield is the perfect location for additional airpower in Afghanistan because it provides increased opportunities to quickly and effectively attack networks that shelter, enrich, and sustain the enemy,” said Col. Stephen Jones, 451st Air Expeditionary Group commander. “Now that we’re closer to the enemy with more airpower assets, we mitigate challenges involving distance, we bring greater firepower to the enemy faster, and we can establish persistent over watch of the enemy in more places.”
Located in the southern part of the country, Kandahar Airfield sits in a region associated with a stronger Taliban influence.
For close to 30 years, Kandahar province, along with Helmand province to the west and Uruzgan province to the north, were essential to the terrorist organization, said Jones.
With the announcement of a new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, U.S. Air Forces Central Command looked to move air assets into theater. All aircraft were ready to fly missions within days of arrival. The A-10 specifically flew its first mission 18 hours after landing.
“Our new A-10s bring accurate and devastating firepower against confirmed enemy combatants and often bring unique airpower options when working closely with MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft equipped with precision guided weaponry,” said Jones. “Additionally, our HH-60 rescue crews and Guardian Angel Airmen ensure that every U.S. service member is within reach of prompt rescue and medical care. The feat was made possible by the detailed planning effort we began months ago.”
Much of this planning effort resided in the 451st Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron.
“The 451st EOSS was the ‘nucleus’ organization for aircraft beddown and airfield management,” said Lt. Col. Patrick Schuldt, 451st EOSS commander. “The EOSS, in conjunction with the 451st Expeditionary Support Squadron led the wing’s SFAB efforts…[since] the primary force of work would occur on the flight line and associated facilities.”
The team initially heard of the possible airpower realignment in October 2017 and leaned forward on the plan months in advance.
“When the final word was given [in December], we were poised to execute,” said Schuldt. “We were successful because Airmen stepped up and did amazing work.”
This execution would not have been possible without organizations outside of the 451st AEG.
“Civil engineering was a linchpin. From the Expeditionary Civil Engineer Group to our local CE team, they both demonstrated herculean effort and accomplishment,” said Schuldt. By the time the beddown is complete all assets fully operational, CE will have completed and installed 40 facilities and structures. Furthermore, the communications team from the 455th Expeditionary Mission Support group at Bagram Airfield was instrumental in preparing more than 300 work stations and installing miles of fiber and cable.
Though the 451st AEG Airmen were busy with the beddown, they also sustained support to ongoing missions throughout the country. The E-11 Battlefield Airborne Communications Node continued to link any combat force with command elements and the KC-135 Stratotanker ensured persistent presence of the F-16 Fighting Falcons overhead.
The entire process was a testament to the dedication of all deployed U.S. Air Force personnel to defend, support, and deliver decisive airpower.
“It’s an honor to work with America’s national treasure, our Airmen,” said Jones. “The continually exceed expectations and do the impossible.”