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‘1000s of Hands’ project highlights Vulture Airmen’s contributions

  • Published
  • By By Maj. Tony Wickman
  • 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

In an effort to highlight the contributions of 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen who bring decisive airpower in support of NATO’s Resolute Support mission and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the wing is launching the “1000s of Hands” project.

Brig. Gen. Mark D. Kelly, 455th AEW commander, said every Airman serving at Bagram, Kandahar and Jalalabad is critical to the wing’s mission to generate and sustain airpower on the combat frontier of Afghanistan, and each story is important to tell. “It takes thousands of hands of Airmen to generate decisive airpower in Afghanistan,” Kelly said.

“Every Airman, regardless of specialty, is important to our mission. An Airman’s importance to our mission isn’t dictated by their proximity to the flightline, but rather by the duty they perform with a high level of precision and professionalism. They each have a story and it needs to be shared.” Kelly said that the more than 1,600 Airmen in the wing are vital to feeding and fixing aircraft, or feeding and fixing the Airmen who fly and fix the aircraft.

"Afghanistan is still a dangerous place that requires us to deliver close air support, airlift, personnel recovery, aeromedical evacuation, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in one of the most challenging environments in the world,” Kelly said. “The ‘1000s of Hands’ project will show our team members who have a hand in delivering a blanket of steel, technology and courage to protect the force in the field and to support our Afghan partners."

For Chief Master Sgt. Jeffery Brown, 455th AEW command chief, the wing performs the critical mission of delivering decisive airpower, but it’s the Airmen who are vital. “Although formal combat operations are finished, we still have our blood and treasure in the field executing either counter-insurgency or train, advise and assist missions,” Brown said.

“These warriors still require the blanket of steel and technology our Air Force provides every day, and we provide that in Afghanistan. Our Airmen are combat airpower. Without these proud, professional warrior Airmen, we fail.”

Brown said that regardless of what duty an Airman performs day-to-day, everyone is essential to the fight. “I truly wish we could get rid of the term ‘non'er’ in our Air Force. Every Airman contributes to the mission at whatever level they are in the kill chain; from the farthest removed to the operator putting warheads on foreheads and steel on target,” said the chief. “It takes thousands of hands executing their assigned mission to put one sortie into the air. Without those hands, our incredible airframes are just hunks of machinery that would sit and rot.”

From Brown’s perspective, every 455th AEW member should know how vital they are to the mission. “The bottom line, we wouldn’t have an Airman over here in harm's way unless we needed them here ... period. We scrub our manning lists continuously to see where we can reduce vulnerabilities and risks. Our Airmen must understand they need to be ready to execute their duties at a moment's notice,” the chief said.

The chief stated that while duty at home station is important, in Afghanistan every Airman is a key contributor who takes on the additional role of being ready with a weapon to defend themselves, their fellow Airmen and the airfield. “In this theater, relevancy is ratcheted up several notches as is team work. As our wing commander says, we get addicted to ratcheted-up relevancy, teamwork and adrenalin in this environment,” Brown said.

“We’re cut to the bone when it comes to presidentially-mandated force management levels. In many cases, we have only one Airman filling a critical role. I could go on and on about how an Airman from any AFSC contributes to our mission. We’re all relevant to the mission of our Air Force.” For the wing commander, every Airman should be proud of who they are, what they do, and how well they accomplish the mission.

“Whether you’re a pilot, maintainer, nurse, civil engineer, or comptroller, you’re a critical member of the 455th AEW team and our mission,” Kelly said. “What you do every day here on the combat frontier of Afghanistan is important for America, you do it better than anyone else, and you contribute to our being the world’s most respected air force.” Moving forward, the “1000s of Hands” project will highlight a Vulture Airman weekly who contributes to the wing’s mission and priorities.