by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly
911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
1/29/2016 - PITTSBURGH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AIR RESERVE STATION, Pa. -- Approximately
three dozen Reservists from several different C-130 airlift wings
deployed to Afghanistan where they became the first members of Air Force
Reserve Command to perform the mission as air advisors to their Afghan
counterparts on C-130 Hercules maintenance, flight and operations
From April through October 2015, 12 members of the 911th AW joined with
other Reservists to train and advise their Afghan counterparts to help
ensure their mission readiness.
All of the Reservists involved in the mission deployed in support of
Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air at Hamid Karzai International Airport,
Kabul. The unit is comprised of U.S. active-duty, Air National Guard
and Air Force Reserve Airmen working hand-in-hand with Afghans to build a
self-sustaining and operationally capable air force.
"This was the first time the rotation called for anyone from AFRC to
take on the major tasking of the C-130 air advisor mission in
Afghanistan," said Maj. Wesley E. Cranmer Jr., an instructor navigator
from Pittsburgh's 758th Airlift Squadron. "There was nothing routine
about this operation. Our Reservists had done nothing like this before."
911th instructor navigators and maintenance specialists assisted the
Afghans as they prepared for and flew military transport and casualty
evacuation missions using the AAF's four C-130 Hercules aircraft.
"What we were doing was eye-opening," said Master Sgt. Antonio
Policicchio, 911th Maintenance Squadron aircraft engine mechanic. "They
were flying actual combat support missions, and everything we did had
direct impact. It was very rewarding."
Cranmer spoke with excitement about a mission in which the 911th AW
Reservists assisted Afghan commandos on their way to fight the Afghan
Taliban in Kunduz.
"It was a high-intensity mission," Cranmer said. "We were working hand
in hand with our Afghan brethren to deliver planeloads of commandos,
ready to fight to save their country, to their destination."
It is the end goal of TAAC-Air to create self-sufficiency of the Afghan
Air Force to keep it in the fight. The training of aviators, mechanics
and loadmasters in the United States, combined with the air advisor
missions in Afghanistan, prepare the AAF to conduct regular maintenance
and self-sustainment training in their country.
For Cranmer, his involvement with the AAF didn't stop at the
self-sustainment training of pilots and navigators on how to fly or run
an operations squadron. The instructor navigator also helped the Afghan
military members with communication and language skills, conducting
English language instruction several times a week. Cranmer said he has a
lot of respect for the AAF and really enjoyed interacting with its
members throughout his time in Afghanistan.
"The best experience I had in my Air Force career was working with the
AAF," he said. "We have a lot more in common than you might think. You
just have to engage."
Editors note: The first operations air advisor package from the C-130
Reserve community included members of the 911th Airlift Wing from
Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania; the
302nd AW from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado; the 94th AW from
Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia; and the 908th AW from Maxwell AFB,
Alabama. At the conclusion of their deployment, they were replaced by a
contingent from the 934th AW, Minneapolis-St. Paul IAP ARS, Minnesota;
the 910th AW, Youngstown ARS, Ohio; and the 914th AW, Niagara Falls IAP
ARS, New York. In addition to the operators, the deployment packages
also included maintenance personnel from the 911th and 908th.