Co-workers worldwide, neighbors stateside: Ohio Air and Army National Guardsmen team up in Afghanistan

Airmen with the 220th Engineering Installation Squadron, Ohio Air National Guard, and Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Ohio Army National Guard, pose for a group photo in front of one of the Army's Counter-Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar (C-RAM) Intercept weapon systems at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, March 10, 2018.

Airmen with the 220th Engineering Installation Squadron, Ohio Air National Guard, and Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Ohio Army National Guard, pose for a group photo in front of one of the Army's Counter-Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar (C-RAM) Intercept weapon systems at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, March 10, 2018. The Ohio National Guard units worked together throughout a significant portion of their deployment during the past few months to complete uplift projects at KAF. (Photo courtesy of Myles Clopton)

U.S. Army Capt. Eric Sylwestrak, battery commander, 2nd Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Ohio Army National Guard, shakes hands with U.S. Air Force Capt. Isaac Hoffman, project engineering officer-in-charge, 220th Engineering Installation Squadron, Ohio Air National Guard, in front of one of the Army's Counter-Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar (C-RAM) Intercept weapon systems at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, March 10, 2018.

U.S. Army Capt. Eric Sylwestrak, battery commander, 2nd Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Ohio Army National Guard, shakes hands with U.S. Air Force Capt. Isaac Hoffman, project engineering officer-in-charge, 220th Engineering Installation Squadron, Ohio Air National Guard, in front of one of the Army's Counter-Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar (C-RAM) Intercept weapon systems at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, March 10, 2018. Airmen and Soldiers with both Ohio National Guard units worked together throughout a significant portion of their deployment during the past few months to complete uplift projects at KAF, including standing up C-RAM operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor Rhynes)

Soldiers conduct test firing of an Army Counter-Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar (C-RAM) Intercept weapon system at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, March 7, 2018.

Soldiers conduct test firing of an Army Counter-Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar (C-RAM) Intercept weapon system at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, March 7, 2018. The C-RAM is used to detect and destroy incoming rockets, artillery and mortar rounds in the air before they hit their targets. Airmen with the 220th Engineering Installation Squadron, Ohio Air National Guard, and Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Ohio Army National Guard, worked together throughout a significant portion of their deployment during the past few months to complete uplift projects, including standing up C-RAM operations, at KAF. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor Rhynes)

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --

Some 6,000 miles from their homeland, deployed Airmen and Soldiers work on the infrastructure to connect the Army’s Counter-Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar Intercept weapon system to the engagement control center at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. The objective in layman’s terms: connect the gun to the computer.

As the Airmen and Soldiers began to dig the holes, lay the fiber, test the connectivity and take on the extensive tasks that ensued, conversations of home surfaced.  Small talk revealed they had similar Midwestern backgrounds and were interested in the same activities. 

Before they knew it, they found out someone’s wife worked with someone else’s father; someone grew up and went to school in the same town as another; and nearly everyone in the group identified as a “Buckeyes” fan.

Airmen with the 220th Engineering Installation Squadron, Ohio Air National Guard, and Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Ohio National Guard, worked together throughout a significant portion of their deployment during the past few months to complete uplift projects at KAF.

The Ohio National Guard units, hailing from Zanesville (Air) and McConnelsville (Army), brought each other a little closer to home.

“It was such an odd occurrence that the unit tasked to help us with this high-priority mission just so happened to be stationed 20-30 miles away from our home station,” said U.S. Army Capt. Eric Sylwestrak, battery commander of the 2-174 ADA.  “We all immediately felt comfortable around each other and forged a partnership right away.”

The compatibility between the two units led to expeditious and efficient work on the project that was part of the uplift required for bringing in additional forces to KAF.  The Army C-RAMs arrived to KAF in January to protect the military forces and assets stationed there from indirect fire.  Within weeks, the Ohio National Guard units had the weapons systems up and running.

Their swift, significant accomplishments contributed directly to the protection of the airfield and set the standard for rotations to come.  As both units prepare to return to Ohio, the unique relationship they developed at KAF will be an experience for all to remember.

“For the National Guard in Ohio, there’s that constant push that we’re all working together,” said Sylwestrak.  “You know it’s one team, one fight and we’re all prepared for any mission that comes up.”