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Air Force Reservists Serve in Afghanistan

By Air Force Maj. Jon Quinlan, 507th Air Refueling Wing

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TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla., April 25, 2017 — A group of citizen airmen from the 507th Security Forces Squadron here deployed March 31 to Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan, to support the Afghan air force in its fight against insurgents in support of NATO’s Resolute Support mission.

Senior Airman Micheal Thomas, 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group guardian angel, provides armed overwatch for contractors and air advisors performing maintenance on an Afghan Air Force MD-530 Light Attack Helicopter, April 16, 2017, at Kandahar Air Wing, Afghanistan. Thomas is deployed with other Citizen Airmen from the 507th Security Forces Squadron, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Katherine Spessa)
Senior Airman Micheal Thomas, 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group guardian angel, provides armed overwatch for contractors and air advisors performing maintenance on an Afghan Air Force MD-530 Light Attack Helicopter, April 16, 2017, at Kandahar Air Wing, Afghanistan. Thomas is deployed with other Citizen Airmen from the 507th Security Forces Squadron, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Katherine Spessa)
Senior Airman Micheal Thomas, 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group guardian angel, provides armed overwatch for contractors and air advisors performing maintenance on an Afghan Air Force MD-530 Light Attack Helicopter, April 16, 2017, at Kandahar Air Wing, Afghanistan. Thomas is deployed with other Citizen Airmen from the 507th Security Forces Squadron, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Katherine Spessa) Reserve defenders serve as guardian angels in Afghanistan
Senior Airman Micheal Thomas, 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group guardian angel, provides armed overwatch for contractors and air advisors performing maintenance on an Afghan Air Force MD-530 Light Attack Helicopter, April 16, 2017, at Kandahar Air Wing, Afghanistan. Thomas is deployed with other Citizen Airmen from the 507th Security Forces Squadron, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Katherine Spessa)

For the next six months, the team will be part of a fly-away security team. Air Force FAST teams are made up of security forces airmen who travel with aircraft to provide extra security around unsecured overseas airfields.

As a civilian, Air Force Senior Airman Casey Jardot of the 507th SFS is a research technician at an oil and gas company. This is his second deployment. He left the Marine Corps to join the Air Force Reserve, and said he is excited to go downrange to perform a vital security mission.

“It’s important because we are there to show a presence of force and relieve active duty,” Jardot said. “We do so much as reservists. We’ve got to go to the fight.”

Part of the fight is protecting personnel, multi-million dollar aircraft and sensitive equipment. When air missions depart, security forces travel with the aircraft to protect the mission and provide full security overwatch at forward operating bases.

The defenders also provide security for air advisors while training and advising Afghan security forces at Kandahar Air Base.

The airmen trained for several months in preparation for this deployment, said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kathelene Mercado, the 507th SFS unit deployment manager. As reservists with civilian careers and families, time management and prioritization of training are key elements in preparation for deployments.

“This mission still exists. The threat is still real,” she said. “We sent out a well-trained team to accomplish the mission.”

The commander of the 507th SFS, Air Force Maj. Richard Martin II, said farewell to both groups as they departed Oklahoma City, stating that he would go anywhere at any time with his deploying team.

“They sacrifice a great deal,” he said. “It never ceases to amaze me as long as I’ve been doing this job. I watch mothers and fathers hand over their infants and toddlers to go do something they feel very strongly about. That sacrifice they make for the greater good is tremendous.”

Fellow defenders from the 507th SFS joined the airmen at the airport to show their support and to bid them farewell. When Jardot and his team boarded the plane, he said even though he felt sad to leave his family, he felt anxious to support the mission.

“My hopes are to execute my job to the best of my ability, deliver the commander’s intent, watch my brothers’ backs and come home safe,” he said.