755th Air Expeditionary Group members celebrate one year with JET Airmen
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Patrick Seiler listens to a convoy brief Jan. 19, 2010, at Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan. Sergeant Seiler is a resource advisor/convoy driver assigned to the Combined Joint Task Force 82 Regional Support Team East and deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Richard Williams)
by Staff Sgt. Richard Williams
455 Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
5/18/2010 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- The 755th Air Expeditionary Group marked the one year anniversary of the creation of four air expeditionary squadrons whose purpose is to provide joint expeditionary tasked and individual augmentee Airmen May 5 here.
Airmen assigned to the 655th, 755th, 855th and 955th AES are deployed to more than 120 forward operating locations in Afghanistan in support of provincial reconstruction teams, embedded training teams and agricultural development teams with a mission to teach the people of Afghanistan the skills necessary to sustain and build their country, said Col. James Meersman, the 755th AEG commander.
The squadrons provide administrative support for the more than 2,000 JET/IA Airmen scattered across Afghanistan that support Army and International Security Assistance Forces, said Lt. Col. Joseph Rodriguez, the 755th Air Expeditionary Squadron commander.
"Our Airmen ensure specific tactical-level missions are fully supported with the right Airmen in the right place, with the right skill sets--on time, every time," he said.
"We consider our JET/IA Airmen the elite," said Colonel Rodriguez, deployed from Langley Air Force Base, Va. "They have been called upon to augment our sister services because of their unique skills, capabilities and training."
The Airmen assigned to these squadrons are placed in non-typical environments, said Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan, the 655th Air Expeditionary Squadron commander.
"While traveling the Afghanistan countryside assessing the health, welfare and morale of every Airman, we have seen firsthand how they have been able to integrate their training, tactical skills, mental abilities and determination to produce whatever task they are given," she said.
Colonel Morgan, deployed from the Secretary of the Air Force Office of Public Affairs, Pentagon, Washington, D.C., said that Airmen have the unique ability to integrate into any culture and serve alongside members of any service to include the Afghan National Security Forces.
Since their creation in 2009, the four squadrons, who report to the 755th AEG here, have faced many challenges, said Colonel Rodriguez, whose 755th AES controls Airmen in Regional Commands South and West of Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
"We started in the back corner of a closet. We expanded our operations center to a fully-contained office in 12 months," he said.
One of the most important things is the relationship the squadron members have built with the members of the units who have tactical control of the JET/IA Airmen, Colonel Rodriguez said.
"The improved infrastructure, along with the relationships we have built have ensured uninterrupted support of our combat Airmen," he said.
Accountability and assurance that Airmen are getting what they need can be a daunting task, said Lt. Col. Joseph Hall, the 855th AES commander, from Whiteman AFB, Mo.
"The biggest struggles we face are maintaining accountability of so many Airmen, with such a small staff. The Airmen are constantly being re-missioned to adapt to the changing face of the fight in Afghanistan," he said.
One of the keys to ensuring Airmen have the resources they need to accomplish the mission is having an "eyes-on" approach, Colonel Morgan said. She and her fellow squadron commanders have adopted an aggressive forward operating base-hop plan, allowing them to travel to forward operating locations and assess the needs and welfare of their Airmen on a more personal level, to give them a better understanding of how they live and work.
"We alleviate the tactical commanders from Air Force-specific responsibilities like discipline, performance reports, tracking and administrative accountability, individual training and equipment and redeployment of our Airmen," said Colonel Meersman, deployed from Defense Logistics Agency, Ft. Belvoir, Va. This has helped foster a strong working relationship with the mission commanders on the ground.
"The tactical commanders always want more Airmen to further their missions, but we are limited in numbers, so every Airman has to count and be productive on the battlefield," he said.
"They (JET Airmen) endure weeks of difficult combat skills training to ensure they are prepared for the dynamic environment of frontline combat, working for people who don't fully understand the Air Force culture, but know they cannot live without the abilities the Airmen bring to the fight," Colonel Rodriguez said. "We ensure these Airmen are never forgotten (with regard to the handling of) their personal affairs, freeing their mind to concentrate on their tasks."
Colonel Rodriguez said he has had the opportunity to meet some of the most highly-motivated individuals on his travels throughout the 755th AEG's area of responsibility who exemplify the Air Force core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.
"Our Airmen are honored to have been selected to take part in such an important mission at a very critical time in our nation's history," he said. "They represent the next greatest generation--one that will take the lessons of our forefathers earned through blood, sweat and tears, and forge a new path for others to follow. By their actions today, they will leave behind a better, more prosperous world for tomorrow."