Wing responsible for wide range of support, missions

  • Published
  • By Capt. Wes Ticer
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing
Coalition forces have supported operations in Afghanistan for more than five years and the Airmen of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing here perform a wide range of missions in support of those operations.

Afghanistan operations are broken up into five regions that operate under the International Security Assistance Force umbrella with operations in the eastern, U.S.-led region known as Operation Enduring Freedom.

The mission of ISAF, which is composed of approximately 35,000 troops from 37 nations, is to support the long-term success of the people of Afghanistan by promoting economic growth and peaceful resolution of conflict in the country, according to the ISAF Web site.

The ISAF mission has steadily increased in size and importance. ISAF, which is headquartered in Kabul, assumed responsibility for almost all operations in Afghanistan in October, according to British Royal Air Force Group Capt. David Best, director of the ISAF Detachment to the CENTAF Combined Air Operations Center.

"Our mission is to make sure airpower is being used effectively and efficiently in support of the (commander of ISAF's) intent," Group Captain Best said.

A large part of that airpower comes from the 379th AEW.

"The B-1 (Lancer) contribution is immense," he said. "The great thing about the B-1 is it has so many weapons and such a long combat persistence. When troops on the ground get into trouble, they need to be able to call on someone and have them there right now.

"The B-1 is always present because it has a long loiter time and you can match the weapon effect to the target. I know it's hugely appreciated by the troops on the ground."

Enabling the long loiter time is the magnitude of the air refueling effort from the wing here and other locations.

"Air-to-air refueling is just key to keeping the presence we need over Afghanistan, and key to keeping weapons in the sky, so when these lightly armed and geographically spread out light troops on the ground need help, there's something a few minutes away," Group Captain Best said. To do that, he said, "we just need a lot of fuel in the sky. Those tankers are what is making airpower work in Afghanistan."

The group captain also acknowledged the work of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and airlift in making ISAF successful.

Although there are fewer military members on the ground in Afghanistan when compared to Iraq, many more weapons are dropped in support of ISAF.

"The guys on the ground are heavily reliant on airpower for what they are doing," he said. "Of course with airpower, we can have firepower pretty much anywhere we like in Afghanistan very quickly."

Another part of the base that supports ISAF is the CAOC.

Tucked away in a small trailer in the CAOC compound and embedded throughout the divisions of the CAOC is a group of 14 people who are looking out for the interests of ISAF. 

"The role of the CAOC is important to ISAF because of the capability to do that doesn't exist with ISAF in Afghanistan," Group Captain Best said. "We are talking about a huge amount of airpower; we're talking about a lot of communication equipment, and a lot of expertise required to make it all happen. The expertise for doing that is in the CAOC."

The group captain said the role of his detachment is to ensure ISAF priorities were being properly represented within the CAOC. Within the teams, the embedded members ensure the operations planned here are synchronized with the planning at the headquarters in Kabul.

The wider mission of ISAF is to provide a stable government for Afghanistan, to bring security, and to bring reconstruction and regeneration to the country, Group Captain Best said. The soldiers and air strikes are needed to establish security for the population to have a secure environment that will be maintained by the people of Afghanistan.

"The forces are creating an environment where the people of Afghanistan can have the opportunity to operate in a secure environment and ultimately decide if governing themselves is better than the tyranny that was prevalent under the Taliban rule," Group Captain Best said.

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