BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --
**For security purposes, 77th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron aircrew will be referred by their call sign; squadron commander names are released.
Sortie after sortie, the 77th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron continues to generate combat ready aircraft to support the ground troops who come under attack as they support the ground commander in Afghanistan.
Keeping pressure on the enemy and supporting the ground troops here at Bagram Airfield is “Slapshot”, 77th EFS F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter pilot.
“Here at BAF, we employ some of the most advanced aircraft in the world to complete our missions and defend this country against bad guys,” said Kirk. “Once called upon, we take off supporting the guys on the ground.”
Deployed out of the 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, “The Gamblers” have an illustrious history of combating oppression and terrorism; from World War II, when they flew as a P-51 Mustang unit escorting heavies, to Operation Unified Protector in 2011, where they enforced the no-fly zone and provided protection to Libyan civilians.
Kirk stated that since arriving here in late Oct., the “Gamblers” have been extremely busy engaging the enemy.
“The troops on the ground are doing a great job penetrating enemy territories and providing us with data to help us support them,” said “Slapshot”. “We support and defend the guys on the ground. Whatever the ground commander needs us to do to support them, we provide that support.”
According to Lt. Col. James Buessing, 77th EFS commander, it is guys like ”Slapshot”, who set the standard for all the other pilots and help continue to bolster the “Gamblers’” ability to deliver decisive airpower.
“[“Slapshot”] is one of my all-star captains excelling at this dynamic mission set here in Afghanistan,” said Buessing. “We spend a lot of time at home station training for times like this and [he is] is executing every mission flawlessly.”
The 77th EFS is one of two fighter squadrons in Afghanistan providing fixed wing close air support to ground forces with kinetic strikes and armed over watch.
Buessing said that it's important for the 77th EFS to be here because they are one of the few assets that protects friendlies on the ground and shapes the environment for offensive actions.
“We identify any target objectives, whether its bad guys doing bad things or in direct support of our friendlies,” said ”Slapshot”. “If they are pinned down do to enemy fire, they call us and we can engage the enemy using necessary measures. Just our presence alone being overhead can suppress the enemy in an effective way.”
”Slapshot” is a generational Airman and has been in the Air Force for five years.
“I’ve had a lot of family legacy in the Air Force,” he said. “My grandfather served during WWII flying B-29s and a couple of the aunts and uncles graduated from the Air Force Academy. Hearing their stories made me want to join and do something different with my life.”
“Slapshot” is currently serving on his first deployment..
“I was excited and pumped up when I found out I was deploying,” said “Slapshot”. “A lot of our time home station is spent training for what I am doing over here now.”
While deployed to BAF, he said his favorite part about this deployment has been working with the ground troops to help them accomplish their mission.
“This deployment has been an awarding experience,” said ”Slapshot”. “Being able to see the direct effect we are having here working with the ground troops accomplishing mission to make this a safer country. We are here directly supporting the ground commander and his intent as our guys move on the ground. If we weren’t here, they wouldn’t have the close air support platform. We enable the ground troops to do their mission.”