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Halfway there, and you’re still amazing

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Antonio Hickey
  • 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Command Chief
Seems like I haven't been here that long, but next week will mark the halfway point of my one-year tour in Afghanistan. That being said, I'd like to share a few observations with you all.

First, today's Airmen are some of the most resilient Airmen I've had the pleasure of serving with in more than 28 years of military service. We have been at war for more than nine years now and many of us have been deployed so many times, we've lost count. Some have spent half of a 20-year military career on a one-to-one dwell which has resulted in well over half of their lives away from family, friends and loved ones. With all of that time away from the people we care about, come many difficulties and circumstances that strain our interpersonal relationships. Still, our Airmen show up each day with an incredible attitude and a degree of motivation that absolutely inspires me. I truly am proud to be a member of your team.

Second, we have developed a force of Airmen that is the best trained and equipped military force the world has ever seen. Our standard conventional forces conduct combat operations on a daily basis that used to be accomplished only by our special operations forces due to the inherent mission risk. To watch a basic aircrew on their second mission in the theater conduct a nighttime combat airdrop to a special operations team deep in contested territory with a drop that was on target in a tight landing zone within two seconds of the requested timing, simply amazed me. To go on to watch a fighter squadron and all of the associated maintenance move their entire operation to another location while continuing to fly out a combat air tasking order is incredible to say the least. These are just two of many incredible things I've seen while deployed here. To be honest, if you would have told me 20 years ago that these things were possible I probably would have thought you were crazy.

Third, we are building a foundation within our military forces that America will reap the benefits for many years to come. My opinion is that the last decade of war has resulted in a core of resilient and experienced warfighters who are inherently able to adapt and evolve as the world changes. Keeping in mind that the junior Airmen of today are tomorrow's senior Air Force leaders, I know that the future is in good hands with these adaptable warfighters. These future leaders will face challenges we can't even imagine today, but I have unwavering confidence that the experiences of the last decade have prepared them for anything.

So, throughout the last six months, I have been incredibly proud to serve with each and every one of you and I look forward to the next six months and the opportunities that they will present. Know that as we head into the holiday season, there is no other place I would rather be than serving shoulder-to-shoulder with each of you as we defend America and help the Afghans secure their country. Thank you for your service!