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Large, diverse maintenance squadron prioritizes mission, discipline and safety

  • Published
  • By Capt. Anna-Marie Wyant
  • 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

A deployed maintenance squadron re-established less than nine months ago is already making a positive impact and being recognized for its efforts.

The 451st Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron located at Kandahar was recently selected as the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Maintenance Effectiveness Award - Cat II winner. If they win at the Air Combat Command level, they will have the opportunity to compete at the Air Force and Department of Defense levels.

The squadron stood up in March 2018 and became the largest and most diverse maintenance squadron in Afghanistan. Across four aircraft maintenance units and six back shops, the unit hosted 1,400 maintainers who generated over 11,000 combat sorties supporting seven operational squadrons from March through September. On Nov. 6, the squadron officially reactivated.  

In support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, the squadron successfully maintained 63 aircraft in support of aerial refueling, close air support, combat search and rescue, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Additionally, they established the first combat zone air refueling capability, enabled the return of A-10 Thunderbolt IIs to Afghanistan, and are currently working toward revitalizing the MQ-9 Reaper air system infrastructure.

“I am incredibly proud of the hundreds of Airmen who contributed to this accomplishment,” said 451st EAMXS Commander Maj. Michael Lasher.

Lasher said his unit is successful because they prioritize the mission and work together despite the challenges of high operations tempo and personnel turnover from one deployment rotation to the next. He said his priorities can be broken into three categories: mission focus, disciplined execution and safety.

Mission-focused Airmen

“We are battle chargers, unafraid and determined,” Lasher said. “As such, every Airman in the unit must know and understand what they are supporting. The airpower we provide directly enables uncontested maneuver and provides unmatched security for U.S. and coalition ground forces operating in Afghanistan.”

He said the battlefield for maintainers is the flightline and the back shops. When his Airmen step into those arenas, they are focused on their objectives and understand their direct mission impacts.

Disciplined execution

“The most lethal armies in history all share one common characteristic: discipline,” Lasher said. “They cared for themselves, their equipment, their wingmen and their mission. As maintainers we represent half of a sacred trust between maintainer and aircrew. The lives of our teammates who operate our aircraft and the mission depend on our level of discipline every single day.”

The combination of a perfectly maintained aircraft that functions as advertised every time and a highly trained and proficient operator is a devastating combination for our enemies, he added, stressing the importance of getting their job done correctly every time.

Airmen’s safety

“Simply put, not a single airplane takes off without the work put in by a maintainer,” Lasher said. “Every single person is critical to generating safe and effective combat airpower. We must protect each other physically, mentally and emotionally, above all other things.”  

Lasher said he truly believes his Airmen are all motivated and determined to do their part in accomplishing the mission. He said their potential is unlimited.

“If we can shape the conditions of the unit to allow every Airman the physical, mental and professional space to execute their assigned tasks, we will be successful,” he added. “My job is to eradicate distractions and create an environment that promotes proactive Airmen not only doing their job but identifying and implementing ways to do it better.”

The 451st EAMXS is a geographically separated unit of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing headquartered at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.