Airmen support Afghan presidential mission

  • Published
  • By Capt. Teresa Sullivan
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
A Phoenix Raven security team with the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia provided security for a C-17 Globemaster III and its crew July 11during an Afghan presidential support mission at a remote airstrip here. 

Staff Sgt. Mike Kincaid and Airman 1st Class Joseph Celata made up the Phoenix Raven team responsible for providing security for the aircraft and crew in areas with high terrorist and criminal threats. 

Sergeant Kincaid is a 62nd Security Forces Squadron Phoenix Raven team leader from McChord Air Force Base, Wash. Airman is a 305th Security Forces Squadron Phoenix Raven from McGuire AFB, N.J.
They began their day at 4 a.m. getting ready for a flight that would take them to Kabul to pick up the Afghanistan presidential entourage then onto Tarin Kowt where they would stand watch as the passengers were unloaded. To prepare, they organized their protective equipment, conducted a quick inspection, then sat in on a preflight intelligence briefing. 

"I always go in knowing that anything can happen. Security of the aircraft is our No. 1 priority," said Airman Celata, a 21-year-old Boston native. "I'm always just a little nervous before missions because you never know if today's going to be the day something happens in the combat zone. I always think about things that could happen, so if it does I have a plan." 

Ravens travel in teams of two on aircraft to provide security when there isn't adequate security available. When deployed they fly five to seven times per week. In this case, they stood watch at an isolated dirt strip in the Oruzgan province in Southern Afghanistan. 

Ravens are trained on multiple weapons, aircraft security, cultural awareness, defense fighting tactics and verbal judo to get their job done. 

"We try to use verbal judo, or words, to alleviate tense or awkward situations," said Sergeant Kincaid of the diplomatic method Ravens use if approached while guarding aircraft. "We always want to listen, empathize, ask and paraphrase when talking with people, especially from foreign countries." 

They are taught to listen and understand others during tense situations, but are trained to use force if necessary. Each Raven flies with his weapon of choice, but carry other weapons for use as necessary. 

"I think our best technique for deterrence is our presence," said Sergeant Kincaid, a 31-year-old native of Spokane, Wash. "One of the main reasons we're on this mission is to provide a show of force. The enemy will have second thoughts when they see two or four Ravens outside an aircraft providing security." 

Upon landing at the airstrip, the team of two exited the aircraft first, weapons in hand, ready to maintain security while the presidential-support team safely departed the area. One kept watch over the front of the aircraft and one to the back as they kept an eye for anything suspicious. 

Meanwhile as loadmasters, aircrew and maintainers hustled to finish getting the aircraft ready for departure, the Ravens made one last scan of the area and boarded the plane last -- meeting their objective without incident or delay. 

As the C-17 departed the dirt strip of land, the Ravens 13-hour mission didn't stop at security and they pitched in to assist the aircrew. 

"These guys may be Ravens, but they are also dragging bags and helping the loadmasters configure the cargo area," said Capt. Jeremy Farlaino, an 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron C-17 aircraft commander. "They're force multipliers for us. At the end of the day, these guys work extremely hard and we know we're safe with Ravens on board." 

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