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A new era of retrograde operations as squadron inactivates

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- Ringing in not only a new year, but a new era of retrograde operations, the 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron was inactivated during a ceremony here Jan. 1.

In a time honored tradition, Lt. Col. Christopher Carmichael, the 455th EAPS commander, relinquished command of the squadron to Col. Michael Grogan, the 455th Mission Support Group commander, who furled and cased the colors, signifying the official inactivation of the unit.

“We’re here to formally recognize the official deactivation of the aerial port squadron and essentially say goodbye to the Airmen and their leader, lieutenant colonel Carmichael,” Grogan said. “One of our joint publications says logistics sets the campaign’s operational limits. In other words, the pace of the fight depends on the pace of logistics and you, our port dawgs, have set an amazing pace over the last six years.”

In previous rotations, the men and women of the 455th EAPS were charged with the responsibility of coordinating the bi-directional movement of assets from the U.S. to Bagram and Bagram to nearby forward operating bases. More recently, the squadron facilitated successful retrograde operations as the U.S. prepared to transition from Operation Enduring Freedom to Resolute Support.

“Although we’re closing a significant chapter by standing down the squadron, the mission of the port continues.” Grogan said. “It’s simply being reorganized into a flight, and to that end, we welcome our civilian contract partners into the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing fold.”

In his last address as the commander of the 455th EAPS, Carmichael expressed his gratitude to the Airmen of his squadron and pride in the feats they’d accomplished working shoulder to shoulder.

“I feel truly humbled and honored to represent the men and women of this squadron in a combat zone helping to ensure the liberty of the people of Afghanistan,” Carmichael said. “The people of this squadron are responsible for the successful retrograde of our nation’s longest war, moving more than 1.1 million tons of cargo over the past six years and 2.4 million passengers over 204,000 missions since its activation in 2008.”

Though the squadron’s primary mission was transport, the Airmen of the 455th EAPS touched much more than cargo. Over the course of the squadron’s six year tenure, they facilitated dignified transfers for America’s fallen sons and daughters, provided comfort and respite to those on the frontlines, and aided in historical democratic proceedings in Afghanistan.

“The mission of the 455th EAPS included safe upload and download of passengers and cargo, including the careful movement of fallen heroes who passed through Bagram Airfield,” Carmichael said. “It included the loading of airdrop missions supporting the warfighter, ensuring they had bullets and rations needed to take the fight to the enemy. It included the loading of ballot boxes for the recent Afghan Presidential Election recount, without which the first-ever successful transition of presidential power would never have happened. It included the collection and distribution of more than 1,100 pounds of humanitarian aid donated to the people of Afghanistan. It included the training of 27 Afghan national air force port dawgs, enabling Afghanistan to perform aerial port operations.

“All this led to the 455th EAPS being named Air Combat Command’s winner for the Largest Air Terminal of the Year award in 2013 and ACC’s 2011 Verne Orr Award as the unit that makes the most efficient use of its human resources,” Carmichael continued. “It’s an absolute team effort and I’d like to give my heartfelt thank you to the Airmen of the 455th EAPS, past and present.”

With the echo of their accomplishments still reverberating throughout the room, members of the 455th EAPS rendered their final salute and prepared to welcome their new commander, Lt. Col. Andrew Pate, the 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron commander.

“Command is an absolute privilege and an honor I take it very seriously,” Pate said. “Port dawgs, your accomplishments are truly humbling and amazing. I welcome you to the 455th ELRS. We look forward to your joining the family and being part of the proud squadron we have as we continue to develop the logistics capabilities and provide those services that our wing so desperately needs to be successful.”

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