JET Airmen making joint missions successful

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.
  • U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
About 1,200 Airmen are deployed in joint expeditionary tasked and individual augmentee assignments conducting Operation Enduring Freedom missions alongside joint-service and coalition partners throughout Afghanistan.

Known collectively as "JET Airmen", they rely on previous experience and Air Force training to directly support American and coalition ground forces.

"Airmen are contributing significantly to critical missions throughout Afghanistan every day," said Lt. Col. Richard Goodman, the 446th Air Expeditionary Group deputy commander. "Our Airmen serving in joint taskings are highly valued and their skills and leadership contribute immensely to the effort of the joint team. I couldn't be more proud of them."

"Back home, I'm a bench-level scientist, working on high temperature materials," said 1st Lt. Kelli Walker, the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, Joint Combat Assessment Team battle-damage assessor. "Deployed here, as JCAT assessor, I have an immediate operational impact by analyzing aircraft battle damage and providing timely and relevant intelligence to theater commanders ... so they can mitigate risks when flying assets."

Walker is one of two Air Force scientists tasked with diagnosing battle damage for all coalition aircraft across Afghanistan. Her reports on aircraft damage and recovery processes provide scientific data to assist commanders in improving future aircraft operational employment and reconstitution efforts. 

Walker and more than 300 JET Airmen serve in similarly unique JET/IA positions throughout Afghanistan's Regional Command South, Southwest and West attached to the 466th Air Expeditionary Squadron at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan. From there, more than 200 Airmen support the Army's 4th Infantry Division.

"This is truly a joint and combined force," said Army Maj. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, the commanding general, Regional Command (South) and 4th ID. "When I look around, I don't see Marines, or Airmen, or Soldiers, or Sailors, or Guardians. It is one force, one team, all pulling in the same direction, supporting the Afghans as they rejected the Taliban and voted for democracy." 

As the U.S. military consolidates its footprint in Afghanistan, 466th AES JET Airmen supporting the 4th ID at Kandahar are called upon to assist, advise and train Afghan National Security Forces to foster self-sustainment.

"Working with various organizations and branches of the military has helped me to become a better leader," said Air Force Tech Sgt. Earnest Buffin, 466th AES logistics adviser. "I've been able to take my experience from the Air Force and apply it to this JET Tasking. It's been rewarding."

According to Buffin, the ANSF forces he advises are responsible for nearly $10 million in assets and have made significant improvements in planning and accountability during his tour. 

Air Force medical technicians deployed as JET Airmen provide day-to-day clinic-level care to soldiers in support of Army convoy operations. Deployed in teams of two, these Airmen embed with their Army brethren to conduct both day-to-day preventive care and combat casualty care for the nearly 100 members assigned to a particular convoy operation. Working independently from the back of mine resistant ambush protected vehicles, prescribing medications to ailing soldiers, and responding to casualties after an attack starkly contrast with their normal home-station duties that often consist of greeting patients, organizing schedules and aiding doctors with patient care.

For Staff Sgt. Rebekah Miller and Senior Airman Nathan Friederichs, 466th AES medical technicians, their deployment became an epic journey. For more than 14 days, the Airmen provided medical support and care to Soldiers on a delayed convoy operation in Regional Command South.

During a tactical hold due to weather and austere operating conditions, Miller and Friederichs ensured the health and safety of their entire team -- returning Soldiers to the mission to complete the movement without casualty.

Explosive ordnance disposal Airmen of the 466th AES are also supporting operations in Afghanistan. In addition to primary missions, each week the EOD Airmen detonate unused and outdated munitions collected from multiple organizations to ensure improved safety for U.S. and coalition forces.

Airmen assigned to the construction management retrograde engineers mission at Kandahar and Bagram Air Fields play a significant role in ongoing transition efforts. The Airmen plan facility deconstruction efforts, monitor projects through completion and report progress to senior leaders.

Staff Sgt. Michael Makela, a 466th AES EOD administrative technician, is responsible for the accountability of assets and personnel while providing overall support for the EOD team.

"My job back at home consists of enlisted evaluation reports, reenlistments and things of an administrative nature," Makela said. "Here, I'm performing force protection and other duties that Airmen in my career field don't normally have the opportunity to do."

Staff Sgt. Jessica Segalla, a 4th ID Afghan National Army advisor assigned to the 466th AES, advises ANSF on the importance of security, linguist managementand the development of standardized logistics management procedures. 

"I like what I do as a JET Airman, not only with the Afghans, but with our sister services," Segalla said. "Meeting the challenges of this mission has changed my life forever -- I wouldn't trade it for the world."