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Revitalizing the squadron: Support Squadron enables airpower at KAF

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- A successful air campaign requires more than just aviators and maintainers—it needs Airmen to support every facet of airpower.

Within the 451st Air Expeditionary Group, at Kandahar Airfield, there is a squadron designed to organically provide necessary support to project airpower in the region.

“The 451st Expeditionary Support Squadron is a ’mini-mission support group,’” said Lt. Col. Joel Bolina, the 451st ESPTS commander. “In this squadron, we have engineers, defenders, logisticians, aerial porters, services, personnelists and communications specialists. Not only is the makeup of the squadron unique, but so are the customers that we serve. Our capabilities serve not only Air Force missions, but joint and coalition partners.” 

“Dynamic,” “professional,” “hard chargers”—these are just some of the words used to describe the team of more than 550 Airmen, civilians and contractors. 

Squadron of Diversity

“Being a part of this squadron immerses me in so many new worlds,” said Senior Master Sgt. Marcus Jackson, the 451st ESPTS superintendent. “I have never worked with so many Air Force specialties as closely as I did before.”

Bolina is a civil engineer by trade and Jackson is a career security forces defender. While they have worked with other careers outside their own in the past, this is their first time working in such a unique and diverse environment. 

Consisting of 18 Air Force Specialty Codes, the squadron has a large footprint at Kandahar. In-processing and out-processing personnel, cargo handling, network access, supply, flightline defense and morale are just a few of the programs the squadron leads.

The number of career fields represented in the squadron isn’t the only aspect that makes it distinct. The team is a mix of Airmen, American contractors and foreign nationals from more than a dozen different countries. 

“A majority of our squadron is made up of contractors, and without them, we would not be able to provide a lot of the capabilities we do now,” Bolina said. “The relationships our Airmen have with the contractors and vice-versa allow us to be an efficient and effective team.” 

The diversity of the team enables them to complete bigger and better things.

“Diversity brings different perspectives and with that comes different ideas, which result in performing tasks more efficiently,” Bolina said. 

A key component to the squadron’s success is the relationship each section has with each other. Typically, the sections would be geographically separated and not have a lot of communication with each other, but as a squadron, these individuals work with each other every day and have a better understanding of how they all fit together in the grand scheme of things. 

“As a security forces member, I knew I fell under a collective of other organizations that supported air operations,” Jackson said. “Now I see firsthand how all of the other organizations perform their jobs, the difficulties they have to overcome and the level of expertise they must have to accomplish a goal; it’s quite eye-opening. I definitely have a better understanding of how all of these different career fields combine to create a well-oiled machine.” 

Revitalizing the Squadron

Since becoming Air Force chief of staff, Gen. David L. Goldfein has put an emphasis on the beating heart of the Air Force—the squadron. The mission succeeds or fails at the squadron-level since this is where Airmen are developed, trained and built; it’s where the rubber meets the road.

“Revitalizing the squadron is about empowering the squadron and people within to enable us to push the envelope to make it better,” Bolina said. 

A support squadron is a rarity in this day and age. At any other base, communications, security forces, civil engineering, logistics and force support would be separate and distinct squadrons. At Kandahar, the 451st ESPTS consolidates and possesses these diverse capabilities to support the projection of airpower and create peace in Afghanistan.