War on Terrorism

Thursday, October 09, 2014

JBER Airman reflects on Afghanistan, Air Force service

Commentary by Senior Master Sgt. Mike Hammond
JBER Public Affairs


10/2/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Editors note: Hammond, JBER Public Affairs superintendent, recently returned from an Afghanistan deployment with the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing.

"Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." -- Theodore Roosevelt

As a proud daddy to five children, I would disagree with President Roosevelt in that I believe becoming a parent is the best prize in life itself. That said, I could not agree with him more when it comes to the job ... or in the case of those of us in uniform, our way of life - our service. To work hard at work worth doing is truly a prize, and it's one I've been blessed to receive in the past two months I've been on loan to NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan and the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing in Kabul, Afghanistan.

My stay was far briefer than almost everyone I know here - many of whom are serving or  wrapping up tours of about a year. A year away from family and friends back home is a huge sacrifice for them, but I've come to see in just a short time how valuable and inspiring (and special) this mission of ours is. Simply put: how many people get the chance to shape and enable a nation's Air Force?

Knowing what we know from the history of airpower, if you own air and space you have a huge advantage in any engagement or endeavor. This is an advantage our partners, the Afghans, surely need in their desire to meet their nation's security needs now and in the future. When our efforts together as a coalition of advisors and mentors are complete, I hope to see a future where Afghan soldiers on the ground have the advantages our own troops enjoy: never having to fear enemy attack from the air; having eyes in the sky to point out the bad guys before the bad guys know they're coming; and having help in the form of close air support, casualty evacuation, medical transport, and cargo/personnel movement as the missions require.

During the time I've been here, I have gotten to meet an all-star team of sharp, dedicated, and highly motivated airmen - not just from our own nation but our NATO partners and Afghan counterparts as well.

The advisors are absolutely invested heart and soul into the success of the Afghans. The Afghans I've personally met and seen at work are not only friendly and hospitable but also very dedicated and proud of how much they've accomplished and how far they've come.

They are also incredibly brave. The bad guys really don't want a strong Air Force to contend with, and they will stoop to any low to impede that progress and intimidate those who strive for a better life. Our advisors have lost friends this summer to senseless violence. It's always a threat.

And yet, the Afghans continue on. You would all be proud to see it. And I hope I've helped you see it with my imagery and words. It's not much, but it's what I could do to help. Because this is a story worth telling, and it's work worth doing. It's been a privilege and honor to do both. I returned home recently: proud to be an Airman and looking forward to that bright future our NATC-A/438th air advisors and Afghans are working to bring to fruition. Blue skies!

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