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Enlisted weapons school grad applies course fundamentals in Afghanistan

The 455th Air Expeditionary Wing intelligence flight chief is the first enlisted weapons school graduate to wear the new patch in Afghanistan. The patch was approved in October 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Anna-Marie Wyant)

The 455th Air Expeditionary Wing intelligence flight chief is the first enlisted weapons school graduate to wear the new patch in Afghanistan. The patch was approved in October 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Anna-Marie Wyant)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --

One of the Air Force’s first Advanced Enlisted Mission Planning Course graduates is applying what he learned in the classroom to support combat operations in Afghanistan.

Kevin, the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing intelligence flight chief at Bagram Airfield, completed AEMPC, which is now known as the Advanced Intelligence Instructor Course, prior to deploying to Afghanistan. He isn’t the first AEMPC or AIIC grad to serve in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, but he’s the first to wear the patch, which was approved in October 2018.

He hit the ground running and has been busy supporting wing and mission partners throughout his deployment. He regularly coordinates with a fellow graduate serving with the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Bagram.

Kevin said one of the benefits of graduating from the course is the increased ability to be a force multiplier. As a noncommissioned officer capitalizing on his knowledge from the course, he is able to fulfill some duties normally performed by a commissioned Weapons Instructor Course graduate. Since the wing didn’t have an available WIC grad, Kevin has taken on that role in support of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

“I was able to help fill a requirement for one of our forward operating bases to determine the effectiveness of their ISR for base defense,” Kevin said. “Due to my training, I was able to reach out to the Combined Air Operations Center, speak to their intelligence weapons officer and get his support since we were able to operate on a common foundation of knowledge and capabilities.”

Kevin’s ability to communicate effectively with the intelligence weapons officer made it easier and more efficient to get the warfighters what they needed to protect their base. Additionally, Kevin has facilitated target development for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan using F-16 sensor capabilities and mission planning to help fill lSR coverage gaps for the deliberate targeting effort in Afghanistan.

“We have streamlined the process and hope to be able to push it out to the A-10 and MQ-9 squadrons we support as well, which should result in approximately 60 additional hours of ISR coverage each month,” he added.

Kevin attributes his contributions to these mission successes to his time at AEMPC—but it wasn’t easy.

“Going through the course is the most challenging thing that I have ever done in my career,” he said. “While the course provided an exorbitant amount of information, it is definitely intended to ensure the student has the knowledge base to later translate into instructing.”

Though the course can be stressful, Kevin said the benefits are priceless. Aside from technical expertise, he also learned importance of remaining calm in stressful situations. He said he learned how far he could push himself, and how to become “comfortable being uncomfortable.”

“Those valuable lessons and introspection have aided me in my time here in Afghanistan on multiple occasions,” he said. “Anytime there has been a significant event or immediate requirement that needs to be met, I find myself strangely calm, which has allowed me to be able to focus and ensure that we are able to support our leadership and operations with the timely, accurate and relevant intel we promise.”

The 455th AEW intelligence flight works with the wing’s two main groups at Bagram and Kandahar Airfields, as well as joint and coalition partners across the CENTCOM AOR. This requires an understanding of several different weapons systems and capabilities. The course taught Kevin the capabilities of several of these systems and how to provide intelligence support to each. He said he applies that knowledge regularly in his current assignment.

“Arriving at Bagram, I was immediately able to work with the operations units within the 455th AEW and be familiar with their capabilities,” Kevin said. “That made it significantly easier to fill my role of supporting unit intel since I was able to speak the same language as them for their respective aircraft.”

While the course set him up for success during his deployment, Kevin said he doesn’t know everything—but that’s OK.

“One of the major things that I learned going through AEMPC is how much I don’t know, and that it’s ‘OK’ to not know things,” he said. “There are certain things that we are expected to be the expert on, such as adversary capabilities and ISR operations, but there are plenty of things that we are able to rely on others to know the answers to... I have a great team of intelligence analysts with me at the 455th that each have their own experience and expertise that I can turn to for help.”

The 455th AEW is the Air Force’s premier counterterrorism wing in Afghanistan and supports Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and the NATO Resolute Support mission. Headquartered at Bagram, the wing defends Afghanistan’s two busiest airfields and provides decisive airpower throughout the region.