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What are you taking home?

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Dan Bouchee
  • 438th Air Expeditionary WIng
Until now, I have not stopped to reflect on my time in theater. Many of us are so focused on the day-to-day mission we lose track of days and our accomplishments.

As the wing first sergeant, I am in a unique position of being indirectly responsible for more than 1,000 personnel to include U.S., coalition and civilians throughout three groups and four detachments. Consequently, I have stayed on the move constantly during my time here.

The question that comes to mind for me is: "What are you taking home?"

As a first sergeant, I produce no tangible products. I am not a maintainer who spends countless hours training and advising Afghans on how to properly and safely maintain four different aircraft that have grown the fleet by 18 percent since my arrival and increased every aspect of Afghan proficiency.

But, I can tell you that I'm involved in many different aspects of the wing and am a witness to the tremendous amount of effort being put forth to stand up an independent operationally-capable Afghan air force.

What kind of progress you may ask?

The administrative staff has meticulously tracked accountability of the wing and groups ensuring critical performance reports, decorations and emergency leave paperwork have been processed on time and in accordance with policy. I continue to be amazed at their level of performance.

Our intelligence personnel have kept us aware of pending threats, ensured available data for mission requirements were on point and still managed to train and mentor the Afghans to successfully graduating basic intelligence courses.

The operations staff has kept the ball rolling from everything involving growing Shindand Air Base into the premier AAF undergraduate pilot training base, tracking professionalization of the AAF to coordinating and tracking command and control of theater-wide aircraft.

Supply personnel; where would we be without their support? Not only have these folks ensured our organizations have the parts and equipment needed; they are instrumental in facilitating force protection measures and convoy operations.

The plans and programs department are our forward thinkers. Their job is to make sure the AAF is set for transition from U.S. assistance to independent operations. I am constantly amazed at the countless hours and dedicated service these folks display.

The communications personnel; I have seen the wing communications shop increase in size from two to six and have been astounded by the phenomenal work they have produced. The communications folks at Shindand AB have essentially taken a bare base and created an infastructue that could rival any stateside base albeit limited resources and manning.

Our training and education staff; have led everything from establishing new courses at Pohantoon-e-Hawayee, the Afghan Air Force's "Air University," to seeing Afghan pilot qualified individuals through their training. Without their support, growth in the AAF is virtually impossible.

The finance staff; to date I have never seen a more dedicated team of two people; one officer and one senior noncommissioned officer. When push comes to shove, they have shoved when it was the right thing to do and pushed when the circumstance called. My hat is off to them as well.

I could go on and on about every single Air Force Specialty Code or Military Occupational Specialty as we are an extremely joint and coalition organization. My point in addressing all this is for each person in the organization to reflect and ask themselves "What am I taking home?"

A year away from family, friends and loved one is a long time. We miss key dates and face unexpected challenges. Leaving a deployment feeling like you wasted your time is one thing; but wasting your family's time is entirely different. I encourage everyone to reflect back on their time and bring a few successes home. Showing value in what you did and how it helped in mission accomplishment helps justify the time and assists in the reintegration process.

In closing, what am I taking home? The fact I had an opportunity to serve with the outstanding men and women of the 438th AEW is enough, in addition knowing that I helped individuals, directorates, squadrons, detachments and groups through difficult times and saw tremendous improvement for the people of Afghanistan gives me a sense of accomplishment I can be proud of and my family can too.