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Behind the Curtains: Airmen taking care of Airmen

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jean-Paul Arnaud-Marquez
  • 455th Air Expeditonary Wing Public Affairs

The indoor stadium was erupting with energy as bystanders cheered for their fellow service members with loud applause and hopeful smiles. It was a friendly game of flag football, Air Force vs. Army, and the competition was fierce. According to some fans, it had been a while since the Air Force beat the Army during the annual Turkey Bowl game at Bagram Airfield. Spectators were eager to see the outcome in hopes their team would be victorious.


It’s easy to become completely engulfed by the enthusiasm and the camaraderie of a sporting event like this, where fans and bystanders find themselves invested in the friendly yet fierce competition. Amidst that excitement, however, people don’t usually think about how the event came to be and all the preparation and coordination needed to make it run smoothly. That’s where the 455th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron comes in.


The women and men of the 455th EFSS often work behind the scenes to ensure various facilities are in suitable condition and events like the football game are set up and coordinated in a timely manner.


“Our job is to take care of Airmen, and we take that very seriously,” said Maj. Jessa Kling, 455th EFSS commander. “At the end of the day, our mission is about Airmen, and we get to focus on them so they can better focus on their mission.”


The 455th EFSS coordinates and supports events including monthly block parties, weekly salsa dance lessons, poker tournaments, weightlifting competitions and more, but their efforts transcend boosting morale; these Airmen are responsible for various other functions needed for day-to-day operations. Personnel support for contingency operations, professional education opportunities, managing lodging and fitness facilities are just some of the many duties these Airmen must effectively balance and execute to ensure mission success. They have a multifaceted mission where the main focus supporting Airmen, and where the bulk of the workload typically occurs while no one is watching.


“I tend to be a bridge builder,” said Senior Master Sgt. Darryl Dew, 455th EFSS superintendent. “I make sure that my Airmen understand what their purpose is here and that they feel appreciated.”


While morale can’t be quantified as concisely as the number of sorties flown or the number of aircraft fixed, its importance to the overall mission is priceless. Whether they realize it or not, Airmen and partners across Bagram rely on the 455th EFSS for a place to sleep and ample opportunities to break the daily work routine and enjoy some downtime with friends and coworkers.


“My job is to take care of people; it’s what I do for a living,” said Dew. “When someone comes up to you and says, ‘You know what? that was really fun,’ or ‘You took care of me, I appreciate that,’ or ‘My day is better because of you’… that hits the spot.”


Dew beams with pride when he speaks about his squadron’s role in the fight. Customer satisfaction is what has continuously motivated him to excel in his duties for the past 18 years. Kling echoes his sentiment.


“When I get to see the smiles on Airmen’s faces, it brings such joy to me, and that is shared across our squadron,” said Kling. “Our mission requires our Airmen to be away from their friends and family, and to be able watch our Airmen do their primary mission, and to do it with excellence, is just amazing to me.”


Force support Airmen and civilians oversee some of the most integral facilities on any Air Force instillation, but their impacts are multiplied in a deployed location. In a combat zone, part of their job is to replicate the normalcy and commodities of home. That is no easy task, but one they tackle head-on—much like during the Turkey Bowl.


Air Force took home the win that day on the football field, but both teams and spectators walked away with something far more important. They all participated in an opportunity to build a closer relationship with integral service partners while taking the time to decompress. Behind the scenes, as the men and women of the 455th EFSS completed the post-event cleanup, they took pride of their work knowing that a simple football game can leave a lasting impact.