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816th EAS Celebrates 16 Years of Air Power

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Constantine Bambakidis

After 16 consecutive years of active service, the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron was inactivated during a ceremony at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Sept. 30, 2022. The 816th EAS, commanded by Lt. Col. Daniel Naske, provided strategic airlift and combat operations to the U.S. Air Forces Central Command’s area of responsibility.

“Today we’ll let the colors rest for a little bit,” said Maj. Gen. Corey Martin, 18th Air Force Commander. “But know, certainly this group can take great pride that you finished strong and represented well.”

The 816th, which is based out of Joint Base Charleston, S.C., activated at AUAB in 2006. The activation was part of Operation Enduring Freedom, in response to the attacks on September 11th, 2001. The 816th provided key intra-theatre transport across Southeast Asia, transporting 1.6 million passengers and 3 billion pounds of cargo over 185,000 flight hours.

“When called upon, the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron has delivered critical supplies to warfighters at austere drop zones and landing zones across Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, ensuring that warfighters on the front lines have everything that they need in order to effectively engage the enemy,” Naske said.

In addition to supporting combat operations, the 816th supported humanitarian missions, including a recent response to what would become the world’s deadliest flood since the 2017 South Asian floods, in Pakistan. As part of a USAID initiative, the 816th moved over 1.4 million pounds of relief.

Prior to that, the 816th supported the evacuation of qualified evacuees from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Afghanistan evacuation operation was one of the largest airlifts in history, evacuating more than 58,000 people within the first ten days under volatile circumstances. For their actions during this evacuation, the 816th also became the fifth unit to be awarded the Gallant Unit Citation.

“Glory may fade, but the 816th and the soul of combat airlift will live on in all those who have served in this squadron,” said Naske. “As this chapter of our community closes, a new one begins, and the legacy of combat airlift excellence you all have created will carry on forever.”

The squadron is being replaced by the 8th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, which will provide similar capabilities to the AFCENT AOR. The actions of the 816th EAS will be forever marked in U.S. Air Force history.

“Where it’s needed, we’re a warrior class,” Martin said. ”Where lethality is needed, the 816th will be ready.”