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Airmen consolidate flying missions, free space for Afghan unit

By Senior Airman Melissa B. White , 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

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Senior Airman Christopher Smith checks the dipstick of an A-10C Thunderbolt II, Jan. 11, 2011, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Photo by Senior Airman Willard E. Grande II.

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Jan. 24, 2011) — Officials from the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing recently began moving assets here as part of a long-term project to consolidate the wing’s missions and to free space for the expanding Afghan unit.

The move of the 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron marked the first of 10 units and two groups to be consolidating on one side of the flightline, freeing space and allowing the missions of Afghanistan’s Kandahar Air Wing to grow in the near future.

“This move is a good move for both us and the Afghans here at (Kandahar Airfield),” said Brig. Gen. Paul Johnson, the 451st AEW commander. “It allows us to more effectively complete our mission of protecting and providing for our ground troops and commanders, but it also gives the chance for our Afghan partners to grow, allowing them to become stronger and more capable.”

The process began a few months ago when civil engineers here constructed new facilities for the fighter unit. A total of two hangars, three large California tents, eight smaller Alaska tents and five concrete facilities were erected to house the nearly 300 people supporting the 75th EFS members and their equipment. The 451st Expeditionary Communications Squadron was also called upon to install and connect more than 500 feet of fiber optic cable, 20,000 feet of copper cable, and provide dozens of network connections.

“We have much safer and larger facilities now, so we have a lot more room to fit all of our people,” said Capt. Tom Harney, a 75th EFS pilot and the chief of standards and evaluations. 

The move began in late December with the 75th EFS and their A-10C Thunderbolt IIs. The physical move took about five days to complete, but settling into the new facilities and surroundings took a little longer.

“How many times have you moved? Just think of all disruption to your entire life when you’re moving,” said Senior Master Sgt. Brett Burroughs, the 75th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit assistant superintendent. “There were a lot of moving pieces, and it required a lot of dedication and time, but we all worked together and it was a huge accomplishment.”

During the move, the 451st Expeditionary Maintenance Group and 451st Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron collectively moved 375,000 pounds or about 115 pallets of equipment to sustain maintenance operations for the unit. With support of all the units throughout the process, the A-10 unit was able to support 100 percent of their missions by flying nearly 75 sorties of close air support for troops on the ground.

“The people who planned this and helped with the move were really on top of things because we still had to fly,” Captain Harney said. “The mission doesn’t change just because we’re moving. If we weren’t able to do our job, then we would’ve been letting down the guys on the ground, and that can’t happen.”