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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Changing lives one mission at a time

24 Jun 07
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Craig Seals
455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - The C-130 is one of many different types of aircraft stationed here, but could easily be called one of the most versatile.

The members of the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron put that versatility to the test every day. The three primary missions of the C-130s here are airdrop, air-land and aeromedical evacuation.

"Our airdrop missions can be anything from dropping pamphlets to the locals to humanitarian drops such as water, blankets, food and firewood in the winter, ammunition and troop re-supplies," said Senior Airman Patrick Keefe, 774th EAS loadmaster. "Air-land missions consist of troop movements or hauling cargo."

The multitude of missions doesn't limit the aircrew to only one mission type per flight though. Most of the time, their missions are any combination of the three. An aeromedical evacuation mission might be coupled with 15 Soldiers needing to get to a forward operating base while making a stop somewhere else to drop off a palette of supplies.

It's this type of versatility that makes the C-130 one of the most valuable aircraft in the theater. But not all of these missions are as easy as they seem.

"Each mission has a different type of danger, which means that each of us have to be on our A-game each and every day," said Air Force Capt.

John Malley, 774th EAS pilot. "It also depends on where we are going. If we know an area is hot, we know that there is that much more possibility we could get engaged."

Danger aside, the crews have a special sense of pride knowing the supplies and service they bring to the fight.

"I'm proud to be an American and happy to fight the good fight," said Malley. "We're [going to] win this thing and it's only a matter of time.

I'm hoping that every airdrop, air-land and aeromedical evacuation mission contributes positively to our efforts here in Afghanistan."

However, that sense of pride is evident in more than just the C-130 crews.

"With hauling cargo and personnel all over this country, I have been able to see the improvements this country has made," said Keefe. "The people have a feeling of importance now, which was evident in a recent election when they voted a woman in as minister of education. Things like this never would have happened under the Taliban."

Seeing a change for the better in the local people and the faces of the servicemembers they transport puts things in perspective for the crew.

"The most fulfilling part of my job is knowing that we're helping get wounded Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines out of harm's way and getting them to locations where they can get the medical attention they need," said Malley. "And getting those troops on the frontlines what they need when they need it, that's worth it."

Photo - Senior Airman Patrick Keefe (far right), 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster, directs a forklift carrying passenger luggage into the cargo area of a C-130 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Keefe is deployed from Wyoming's Air National Guard, Cheyenne, Wyo. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Craig Seals.

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