BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --
Air Combat Command’s top leadership visited deployed Airmen and mission partners at Bagram and Kandahar airfields, Afghanistan, Feb. 12-14 as part of a weeklong trip to the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of ACC, and Chief Master Sgt. Frank H. Batten III, ACC command chief master sergeant, first spent time with Airmen from the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram, then visited the wing’s 451st Air Expeditionary Group at Kandahar.
The leaders were reminded of the combat realities Airmen face at Bagram as maintainers from the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron took them on a tour of a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft that was damaged by an indirect fire attack in January.
They also toured the Craig Joint Theater Hospital, the most capable Role III trauma hospital in Afghanistan, where they witnessed Airmen and Soldiers working side-by-side to care for wounded warriors and local nationals.
“What you’re doing here is just incredible,” Holmes told 455th Expeditionary Medical Group Airmen at CJTH. “You ensure our Airmen and our partners can go home to their families, and I’m grateful for all that you do.”
Holmes and Batten also visited the new expeditionary theater distribution center run by the 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron. The ETDC, which is slated to be fully operational in the spring, will maintain an inventory of personal protective equipment and issue them to Airmen upon arrival at Bagram. This will reduce the in-transit processing time and the number of additional bags Airmen need to travel with when they deploy.
“This is a game changer for our Airmen,” Holmes said. “This is about taking care of people and treating them with the respect they deserve, and it’s amazing what you’ve accomplished during your time here.”
The leaders learned more about the unique mission contributions of multiple units at Bagram including the 83rd Rescue Squadron, 510th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, and 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron.
At each stop, they took the opportunity to learn about Airmen’s mission impacts and experiences, recognize top performers and answer questions.
1st Lt. Joseph Fraser, 455th ECS operations flight chief, said he enjoyed meeting Holmes and Batten and hearing them speak about the importance of communications Airmen.
“They made it clear that we are not overlooked, and we are needed to think critically and develop technological solutions,” Fraser said. “It brings great pride to our Airmen to know that their efforts have immediate effects across the Air Force being noticed by top leadership.”
During their time in Kandahar, the leaders met Airmen from the 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, as well as Soldiers and coalition partners including Afghan and Romanian military members. The 738th AEAG, which falls under the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing headquartered at Kabul, trains, equips and advises the Afghan Air Force.
“Thank you for your support and your country’s support,” Holmes told a Romanian soldier. “We’re proud to serve with you.”
Batten and Holmes also visited Guard, Reserve and active duty Airmen deployed together across the 451st AEG, including the 104th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, 451st Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, 451st Expeditionary Support Squadron and 62nd Expeditionary Attack Squadron. The leaders thanked Airmen for their service and sacrifices and shared personal deployment experiences.
“My favorite part of my career was the year I was a wing commander at Bagram,” said Holmes, who served as commander of the 455th AEW from March 2008 to April 2009. “During that time, I got to take everything I’d learned in the Air Force and put it to use with a team of people who were really motivated and focused on doing the mission the best they could.”
Batten, who has deployed to Afghanistan twice, reminded Airmen to make the most of their time together.
“The worst part of deploying is being away from my family, but the best part is being on the best teams,” Batten said. “From the first deployment to the last, these are people that I keep in touch with, and we’re still connected. Focus on each other and building those friendships.”
The final stop of the visit was an observation post near the perimeter fence at Kandahar, staffed 24/7 by security forces Airmen.
“Everyone on this base is here to fight terrorists and make sure they don’t make it back to attack the people that we care about,” Holmes told the defenders. “Everyone is able to do their jobs because of you guys, and that’s something to be proud of.”
As the Air Force’s premier counterterrorism wing in Afghanistan, the 455th AEW provides decisive airpower throughout the region and supports Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support mission.
ACC, headquartered at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, is the primary provider of air combat forces to U.S. warfighting commanders. The command operates fighter, reconnaissance, battle-management and electronic-combat aircraft; provides command, control, communications and intelligence systems; and conducts global information operations.