By Staff Sgt William Banton, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing
/ Published January 03, 2018
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- SOUTHWEST ASIA – As the world celebrates the passing of another year, and looks to the future with optimistic hope, the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, and its leadership, reflect on its accomplishments.
“This is a hopeful time, as we celebrate a year filled with great accomplishments,” said Col. Stephen Hodge, 386th AEW, commander. “We overcame challenges, sacrifices and losses this year and did our part to bring closer the end of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”
The 386th directly supported the great strides taken to defeat ISIS which began in January when U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria killed several prominent leaders of that organization.
“Mosul would have been a challenging fight for any army, and the coalition is proud to stand side-by-side with our Iraqi partners as they celebrate their hard-fought victory -- a victory that has cost the lives of many brave Iraqis; soldiers, police and civilians,” said Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve commander in a news release after Iraqi forces liberate Mosul from ISIS. "People of all ethnicities and sects have suffered and sacrificed together, not only for their own country, but to help provide security to the region and the world."
“However, this victory does not mark the end of this evil ideology and the global threat of ISIS. Now it is time for all Iraqis to unite to ensure ISIS is defeated across the rest of Iraq and that the conditions that led to the rise of ISIS in Iraq are not allowed to return again,” he said.
By October, the Syrian city of Raqqa had been liberated from ISIS, by the coalition’s Syrian Democratic Forces. ISIS’ loss of Mosul and Raqqa, were turning points for the fight against the terrorist organization. Raqqa was occupied by Syrian opposition forces in 2013 and was embroiled in a destructive civil war before being seized by ISIS in January 2014.
“With great pride I watched Airmen from all the Air Force components come together as Marauders to achieve momentous success, especially in our support to Operation Inherent Resolve,” Hodge said. “We stood together when we mourned the loss of a member from the 130th Airlift Wing at McLaughlin Air National Guard Base, West Virginia, then fought back to set a three-year high mission capable record, directly contributing to this fight.”
On August 2, 2017, Tech. Sgt. David Board, 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuels systems technician, 49, died of a non-combat-related incident while deployed in support of combat operations.
At the time Maj. Gen. James A. Hoyer, The Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard said, “The loss of Tech. Sgt. Board is a great loss for the West Virginia National Guard and a loss for the people of West Virginia. Our sincere condolences go out to his family, his friends and fellow service members. His contributions to our state and nation are honorable and he will be remembered with the profound respect and admiration of a grateful nation.”
After the tragedy the 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Blue Aircraft Maintenance Unit, rebounded achieving a three-year high mission-capable rate of 95.8 percent during September.
This accomplishment came at a time when the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing flew the most C-130H Hercules sorties in five years, primarily supporting Combined Joint Task Force -- Operation Inherent Resolve.
To compare, the average mission-capable rate for the 12 months prior was 87 percent. This percentage is calculated by totaling the number of hours a unit is in possession of an aircraft, by the number of hours the same aircraft is fully mission-capable.
“The MC rate is perhaps the peak performance indicator of a unit's performance,” said Maj. Joseph Hennessy, 386th EAMXS Blue AMU officer-in-charge in September, deployed from the Minnesota Air National Guard, 133rd Airlift Wing, St. Paul, Minn. “The rate is very much a composite metric that is a broad indicator providing a single perspective on a unit's health and performance.”
This milestone happened while the 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron was moving 127 thousand passengers and 117 thousand tons of cargo across the AOR during approximately 9,000 missions. Their mission directly supported the president of the United States increase of troops in Afghanistan, resulting in the largest month of passenger movement in 5 years.
Throughout the year, the 386th AEW also implemented numerous cost saving measures insuring proper and judicious use of government resources.
Air transportation specialists assigned to the 370th Air Expeditionary Air Advisory Group began an initiative designed to recover more than $2.1 million in U.S. Air Force aerial port assets from Iraqi air force counterparts.
The mission, led by aerial porters at the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center, Iraq, had recovered more than 1,500 aircraft pallets and 1,600 cargo nets as of June, which was used for foreign military sales cargo destined for the Iraqi military to fight ISIS in Mosul.
The 463L pallet, and its top and two side nets, make up the main air-cargo pallet system of the U.S. Air Force, averaging approximately $1,500 per pallet and net set.
The pallet recovery mission wasn’t the only cost-saving initiative started this year as the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron began removal of 114 war reserve material tents, and its generator power infrastructure, to more sustainable semi-permanent facilities.
This change, which is scheduled to be completed in June 2018, will improve the quality of life for the wing’s Airmen and save the Air Force money by replacing the temporary lodging facilities with more energy efficient ones.
The transition from the aging, inefficient and unreliable generator infrastructure to commercial power, will mean more reliable power and less time and resources spent on maintenance.
Throughout the year, the 386th AEW also received direct insight from Air Force leadership on their current priorities and how they will affect the mission during visits to the area of responsibility.
This began in April with the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. Wilson and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, which was followed by a visit from Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein in August.
“The Air Force of today doesn’t win on its own, and neither do the Army or the Navy, and neither do our coalition partners,” said Wilson. “We have to develop joint leaders, and the chief and I are focused on the squadron as where leadership really matters most. The culture of the Air Force is set at the squadron, not at the headquarters, so we will seek to develop those great joint leaders and teams.”
In April, Gen. Wilson spoke similar sentiments as he and Wright addressed the concerns of Airmen and the tolls multiple deployments can take on service members.
“We need to do everything we can to help develop Airmen,” explained Gen. Wilson in April. “But we need to spend more time, in my view, talking about the family. Being deployed five or six times, six months at a time, that’s hard, I get it, so that’s why people insist on getting this part right.”
When accumulated, all these accomplishments can be summed up simply.
“It is the Marauder spirit, boldness, courage, and self-sacrifice that have allowed us to provide decisive airpower and achieve the success we had this year,” said Hodge. “I look forward to what we produce in the new year.”
Additional reporting by Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly and Staff Sgt. Andrew Park, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs photojournalists, and Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News, Defense Media Activity.