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Air Force Featured Stories

Year-end review: 386th AEW remembers banner year

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt William Banton
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing

As the world celebrated the passing of another year, and looked to the future with optimistic hope, the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, and its leadership, reflected on its accomplishments.

“This is a hopeful time, as we celebrate a year filled with great accomplishments,” said Col. Stephen Hodge, 386th AEW commander. “We overcame challenges, sacrifices and losses this year, and did our part to bring closer the end of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”

The 386th AEW directly supported great strides taken to defeat ISIS, beginning in January when U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria killed several prominent leaders of that organization.

“Mosul would have been a challenging fight for any army, and the coalition is proud to stand side-by-side with our Iraqi partners as they celebrate their hard-fought victory -- a victory that has cost the lives of many brave Iraqis; soldiers, police and civilians,” said Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve commander, in a news release after Iraqi forces liberated Mosul from ISIS. "People of all ethnicities and sects have suffered and sacrificed together, not only for their own country, but to help provide security to the region and the world. However, this victory does not mark the end of this evil ideology and the global threat of ISIS. Now it is time for all Iraqis to unite to ensure ISIS is defeated across the rest of Iraq and that the conditions that led to the rise of ISIS in Iraq are not allowed to return again.”

By October, the Syrian city of Raqqa had been liberated from ISIS by the coalition’s Syrian Democratic Forces. ISIS’ loss of Mosul and Raqqa, were turning points for the fight against the terrorist organization. Raqqa was occupied by Syrian opposition forces in 2013, and was embroiled in a destructive civil war before being seized by ISIS in January 2014.

“With great pride I watched Airmen from all the Air Force components come together…to achieve momentous success, especially in our support to Operation Inherent Resolve,” Hodge said. “We stood together when we mourned the loss of a member from the 130th Airlift Wing at McLaughlin Air National Guard Base, West Virginia, then fought back to set a three-year high mission capable record, directly contributing to this fight.”

On Aug. 2, 2017, Tech. Sgt. David Board, 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuels systems technician, 49, died of a non-combat-related incident while deployed in support of combat operations. The 386th EAMXS rebounded after the tragedy, achieving a three-year high mission-capable rate of 95.8 percent in September.

This accomplishment came at a time when the 386th AEW flew the most C-130H Hercules sorties in five years, primarily supporting Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.

To compare, the average mission-capable rate for the 12 months prior was 87 percent. This percentage is calculated by totaling the number of hours a unit is in possession of an aircraft, divided by the number of hours the same aircraft is fully mission-capable.

“The MC rate is perhaps the peak performance indicator of a unit's performance,” said Maj. Joseph Hennessy, 386th EAMXS Blue Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge, deployed from the 133rd Airlift Wing, Minnesota Air National Guard, St. Paul, Minn. “The rate is very much a composite metric that is a broad indicator providing a single perspective on a unit's health and performance.”

This milestone happened while the 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron was moving 127 thousand passengers and 117 thousand tons of cargo across the area of responsibility during approximately 9,000 missions. Their mission directly supported the president of the United States’ increase of troops in Afghanistan, resulting in the largest month of passenger movement in five years.

Throughout the year, the 386th AEW implemented numerous cost-saving measures insuring proper and judicious use of government resources.

Air transportation specialists assigned to the 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group began an initiative designed to recover more than $2.1 million in U.S. Air Force aerial port assets from Iraqi Air Force counterparts.

As of June, the mission, led by aerial porters at the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center, recovered more than 1,500 aircraft pallets and 1,600 cargo nets, which was used for foreign military sales cargo destined for the Iraqi military to fight ISIS in Mosul.

The pallet recovery mission wasn’t the only cost-saving initiative started in 2017. The 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron began removal of 114 war reserve material tents, and its generator power infrastructure, migrating to a more sustainable semi-permanent facilities.

This change, scheduled for completion in June 2018, will improve the quality of life for the wing’s Airmen and save the Air Force money by replacing the temporary lodging facilities with more energy efficient ones. The transition from generator infrastructure to commercial power, will mean more reliable power and less time and resources spent on maintenance.

The 386th AEW also received direct insight from Air Force leadership on their current priorities and how they will affect the mission during visits to the area of responsibility. This began in April with the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. Wilson and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, followed by a visit from Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein in August.

“The Air Force of today doesn’t win on its own, and neither do the Army or the Navy, and neither do our coalition partners,” said the secretary. “We have to develop joint leaders, and the chief and I are focused on the squadron as where leadership really matters most. The culture of the Air Force is set at the squadron, not at the headquarters, so we will seek to develop those great joint leaders and teams.”

In April, the vice chief of staff spoke similar sentiments as he and Wright addressed the concerns of Airmen and the tolls multiple deployments can take on service members.

“We need to do everything we can to help develop Airmen,” he explained. “But we need to spend more time, in my view, talking about the family. Being deployed five or six times, six months at a time, that’s hard, I get it, so that’s why people insist on getting this part right.”

When accumulated, all these accomplishments can be summed up simply.

“It is the…spirit, boldness, courage and self-sacrifice that have allowed us to provide decisive airpower and achieve the success we had this year,” said Hodge. “I look forward to what we produce in the new year.”

Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly and Staff Sgt. Andrew Park, 386th AEW Public Affairs photojournalists, as well as Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News, Defense Media Activity contributed to this article.