Sprints to finish line define deployed duties

  • Published
  • By Col. Max
  • 301st Mission Support Group Commander (Deployed)
"Eagle, Eagle, this is Guardian, over. 

"Go ahead Guardian. 

"Eagle, be advised we have a Code-XX at Gate 1, over. I say again, we have a Code-XX at Gate 1 at this time, over. 

"Roger that, I'm en route."

This is an example of many radio calls I have received during my time here as the 64th Air Expeditionary Group commander. It's life here in the United States Central Task Force AOR. 

A "code-XX" indicates a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) threat has been detected at one of our gates. It occurs when a Military Working Dog (MWD) team inspects and alerts on any of the 3,000 vehicles, 7,700 pedestrians and 4,000 Third Country Nationals (TCNs) who enter through our gates on a weekly basis. 

Needless to say, my MWD teams and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel have been very busy. Having personally responded to all situations, among the toughest decisions I've made is to send my young EOD Airmen to the VBIED scene, with full equipment and gear on, to dismantle tool boxes, packages or items with the questionable device. 

Before sending them down to the affected areas, I've always looked them square in the eyes and sternly said, "Be careful down there, do what you need to do, and come back in one piece." Thankfully, my EOD troops have been able to mitigate the threat without getting maimed, injured or blown up. 

In addition to the ever-present VBIED threat, my base executes many Suspicious Incident Reports (SIRs) involving cases such as vehicles parking near our perimeter fence appearing to be surveying our installation. We also execute SIRs whenever individuals demonstrate hiding, evasive or other strange behavior when spotted by our Defenders. 

Whenever SIRs occur, we immediately notify our host nation Ministry of Defense and Aviation (MoDA) forces to travel off the installation and investigate the situation. In addition, our local Office of Special Investigation (OSI) detachment and intelligence staffs are also notified and involved. 

The current threat at this Southwest Asia location is very volatile, and can change at a moment's notice. During our Right Start briefings, I show a picture of the devastated Khobar Towers to remind each of our newcomers that complacency kills; and our mission is to prevent the same travesty from happening. 

Four months have flown by since I arrived here. Similar to my previous deployment, back in November 2004, I have learned that leadership duties at a deployed location can best be described as "sprints." 

After the Air Force departed this base over five years ago, the 64th AEG reactivated to assume Force Protection and Integrated Base Defense responsibilities from the U.S. Army in January 2006. Since that time, we have "sprinted" to reestablish Air Force operations at this base. I've learned, however, that these "sprints" are manageable by keeping five key leadership principles in mind: 1) have a vision and establish a "Battle Rhythm"; 2) insist that training continue at a deployed location--exercises keep unit personnel razor-sharp; 3) personnel problems do not disappear in a combat environment--understand it and take immediate action to resolve them as they occur; 4) empowering Airmen and capitalizing on their ideas significantly enhances unit quality of mission, work and life; and lastly, 5) visibility, optimism and sharing the same hardships are powerful force multipliers. 

I would like to close this article by thanking all 301st Fighter Wing members for their support during my deployment. I honestly could not perform my critical duties here without each of them stepping up and assuming additional duties in my absence. 

I'm fully aware that Lt. Col. Slayton, Lt. Col. Walsh and my immediate staff are masterfully handling the day-to-day business of the 301st Mission Support Group and support of the wing in my absence. For that, I am eternally grateful for their sacrifices, hard work and dedication in ensuring our home station mission continues on. 

In the meantime, the Global War on Terror continues on in this part of the world. Each event (i.e., Israel, Lebanon, Hezbollah conflict) significantly drives what we do here, and we stand ready to meet any challenge ... "Stay alert ... Stay alive ... D5!"
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