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Patrolling with pride

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jamie Humphries
  • 438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
A few days ago, I returned from my second trip to Shindand Air Base in Western Afghanistan.

Shindand is home to the 838th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group which conducts the Afghan air force advising mission for the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing in Kabul.

Shindand's aim is to be the "crown Jewel" of the AAF with a future goal of having all AAF pilot training conducted exclusively on the compound. Deployed 838th AEAG Airmen advise their Afghan counterparts daily with hopes the Afghan airmen can one day stand up their own independent operationally-capable air force.

Part of the immersion visit was a trip up the side of a large, mountainous hill that overlooks the entire air base giving visitors a bird's eye view of the size of the compound. As we discussed the current status of the base and plans for future growth, I noticed a humvee heading in our direction. You must realize that Shindand is largely a desolate barren piece of desert set in the middle of a very mountainous region, so a humvee driving in our direction seemed very odd.

As the vehicle came to a stop at our position, out jumped three U.S. Air Force security forces members, none over the age of 25. The Airmen hurried to the Shindand group commander standing on the hill and passed him an urgent message. Then, standing in a row, they popped to attention and offered the commander a security forces post briefing. With utmost professionalism, the Airmen provided a sharp snapshot about themselves, weapons and area of responsibility.

Why did I remember this?

I remembered this because it dawned on me these three young Airmen didn't have to give a post briefing. Two of them very easily could've stayed in the vehicle while their teammate passed the message. Two of them could've taken the easy road. Two of them could've been lazy but those two chose to do the right thing.

I remembered this because I realized these three young Airmen were patrolling a very desolate and dangerous fence line thousands of miles from home entrusted to carry lethal weapons ... entrusted to protect the lives of their fellow Airmen. Nearing 100 degrees and wearing full battle rattle is not very entertaining, but they were there and they were prepared.

I remembered this because it was obvious to me these three young Airmen were most likely on their first deployments and must've enlisted recently, telling me they joined the service knowing full well they would most likely deploy to a hostile combat zone. But they joined anyway serving alongside you and me far from their homeland. What must their friends or loved ones think about their life-altering decisions?

I've often heard people say that young Americans are getting lazy ... that they don't value or understand the true measure of hard work. That they just play video games, surf the web or spend their day on Facebook and Twitter. That might be true for some, but what about the others?

I don't think people that criticize have spent a day in a combat zone with our young Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines or they may offer a different opinion.

These young Americans are working hard; making their families proud, and that kind of effort inspires me and should inspire you too!