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Kandahar Airmen keep aircraft fit to fight

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Rito Smith
  • 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

The 451st Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron does things a little differently. Instead of having separate squadrons for each airframe, they are responsible for all the A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, KC-135 Stratotankers and MQ-9 Reapers at Kandahar. To do this effectively, each Airman must be an expert in their craft and communicate well with others.

“We are aligned under a group, so we encompass all on and off flightline maintenance for all of the platforms we support,” said Maj. Michael Makaryk, 451st EAMXS director of operations.


A-10s, often called “Warthogs,” are designed for close air support and can operate in austere conditions. The platform can employ a wide variety of munitions in order to safely and effectively protect the troops on the ground.

“The munitions we are putting on the jet are going out there and getting the mission done,” said Airman 1st Class Brenna Velasco, a weapons load crew member assigned to the 451st EAMXS. “A lot of people don’t see what gets done over here, but I think it’s awesome to get to see it firsthand.”


KC-135s bring the capability for in-flight refueling to the fight. With Stratotankers in the air flying refueling missions, other aircraft can remain airborne longer, providing whatever support is required. 

“I know it’s not just us down here doing maintenance,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Schieffer, a sortie generating crew chief at the 451st EAMXS. “It’s the whole mission, it’s not just the KC-135s; it’s us refueling the A-10s so they can get the mission done, and I feel like I’m part of the big puzzle here.”


MQ-9s are armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft used primarily for dynamic execution of targets and secondarily for intelligence collection.

“We have a constant flow of takeoffs and recoveries throughout the day,” said Lt Col. Jacob Westwood, commander assigned to the 62nd Expeditionary Attack Squadron. “We are able to put effects on the battlefield and be a part of a large operation every day.”

Working together

Each aircraft alone is extremely important to the overall mission success, and each brings unique capabilities to the fight. But managing and maintaining all these assets takes an all-hands-on-deck approach—the squadron needs to work together like a well-oiled machine.

“Nothing can happen out here on the flightline without the maintenance Airmen working day in and day out,” Makaryk said. “We are a 24/7 operation, and it’s very important that we make sure we have air-worthy, reliable aircraft to go out and do their mission.”

Makaryk said the training everyone does at home station enables them to come out and perform at their peak and ensure that no matter the conditions--rain, snow or heat--Airmen are getting the job done.

“I think for everyone here just being in a combat zone really brings a heightened sense of awareness to the importance of everyone’s individual job,” Makaryk said. “I am proud to lead this great team of Airmen enabling the mission every single day.”

The 451st EAMXS is a geographically separated unit that falls under the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing headquartered at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. In addition to being responsible for multiple airframes, the squadron is a total force integrated unit with active duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian personnel working together seamlessly to accomplish the mission.