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May 7-9, 2006—Air Force Association President Robert Largent continued his tour of Air Force operations
in Southwest Asia, interacting with active, Air Guard, and Reserve airmen at various facilities in the region.

After visiting the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, Largent next saw the operations of the 386th AEW and many of its subordinate units—some of which provide direct base operating support to US Army facilities and soldiers.

Largent lunched with more than 20 airmen of the 586th Expeditionary Mission Support Group, operating at an Army camp in what’s termed an “in lieu of” (ILO) status. Air Force ILO airmen handle missions that normally would be done by soldiers. This particular Air Force ILO provides support for US Army missions in the theater, specifically a Medium Truck Detachment.

The AFA president says airmen of the 70th Expeditionary Mission Support Squadron (part of the 586th EMSG), with whom he spent some four hours, display “imagination, creativity, and resourcefulness.” The 70th EMSS is one of two squadrons that drive Army Freightliner 18-wheeler medium trucks and security vehicles on long-haul convoys delivering supplies to ground forces in Iraq. The 150-strong unit comprises active, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve Command transport, security police, and communications airmen.

The loss of two security forces airmen—TSgt. Jason Norton and SSgt. Brian McElroy—when their Humvee was struck by an improvised explosive device on Jan. 22 spurred the remaining airmen of the 70th to make several Humvee changes—improved armor plating, rescue points and equipment, armament, communications, and lighting. The 70th EMSS security forces also secured improved and heavier firepower, including new M4 scopes, 50 cal. machine guns with laser sightings, and night vision goggles.

Among 70th-initiated improvements for the Army’s Freightliner truck were new communications equipment, an escape hatch, armor plating, and improved cab layout. (The Army unit supported by the 70th has adapted all the improvements into all 500 of its trucks.) Communications upgrades include truck-to-truck and satellite radios and a system that allows the unit to track the location of every vehicle on the road and relay that information to the wing and Combined Air Operations Center, as necessary.

Other airmen Largent talked with included:

  • Several airmen from Eielson AFB, Alaska, who were in the new Air Expeditionary Force rotation for the 60th Expeditionary Mission Support Squadron.

  • Some logisticians on a 45-day special deployment to sort out Army chemical warfare equipment—determining whether its destined for stateside refurbishment and rework or can be redistributed in-theater. Officials say the airmen have saved about $5 million worth of salvageable equipment.

  • About 25 airmen at a naval base who are part of a 35-member team that provides all base operating support for more than 2,000 soldiers handling all Army sealifted equipment that must be disbursed within Iraq. The airmen provide functions such as communications, contracting, lodging, recreation, and civil engineering.

His next stop was with the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing. There he also got to see active, Air Guard, and Reserve airmen—many finishing their current six-month deployments and others just coming in. Largent talked and shared meals with more that 50 of the wing’s airmen and toured the unit’s new temporary cantonment area, which offers hard-wall dorms to replace the tent city.

The 380th AEW’s primary missions are to provide aerial refueling and reconnaissance, employing KC-135 and KC-10 tankers and U-2 recon aircraft. Largent got to witness the extensive preparation needed to get both the pilot and the high-flying U-2 aircraft ready for a mission.

AFA President Largent cited the “professionalism, initiative, focus, enthusiasm, and dedication” of the airmen of both the 386th AEW and 380th AEW.