Air Guard Civil engineers complete tour in Afghanistan

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By Capt. John T. Stamm and Maj. Dale Greer, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Friends and family of more than a dozen Kentucky Air National Guardsmen wait to greet the troops at Louisville International Airport in Louisville, Ky., as they return from a six-month deployment to Afghanistan on June 25, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The men and women of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron completed a six-month deployment to Afghanistan July 29 when the unit’s final deployed members arrived home to cheering loved ones at Louisville International Airport.

Master Sgt. Shaun Cecil, an electrician in the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron, hugs his daughter, Caitlyn, and son, Trevor, in the Louisville International Airport passenger terminal in Louisville, Ky., June 25, 2011, after returning from a six-month deployment to Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

The Airmen were among more than 40 Kentucky Air Guard civil engineers who have been providing maintenance and construction services at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, since mid-December, said Senior Master Sgt. Marty Fautz, who served as the group’s operations superintendent during the deployment.

Other unit members returned home as part of redeployment rotations on June 25 and July 22.

While overseas, the Kentucky Airmen comprised approximately 60 percent of Bagram’s 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, a unit recognized as the Senior Airfield Authority and responsible for more than 1,000 acres of facilities, including 400 acres of concrete apron and an 11,000-foot runway, Fautz said.

During their tour, the Kentucky engineers programmed and constructed more than 60 projects, including the completion of over 2,000 in-house work orders, for a combined value of more than $300 million.

Fautz, who was involved in the planning and coordination of all projects tasked to the 455th, said his Airmen provided “incredible service” each day, as demonstrated when the Post Office warehouse tent became flooded, breaking the conveyor system and leaving mail to float freely in the flood waters.

Kentucky's adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, greets more than a dozen members of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron at Louisville International Airport in Louisville, Ky., as they return from a six-month deployment to Afghanistan on June 25, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

“The conveyor presented a challenge,” he said. “There were several unsuccessful attempts by others to fix the conveyer before we jumped in and supported the Army in a team effort to shore up the tent and start the mail moving again.”

Other major projects completed at Bagram by 123rd engineers included a new C-130 maintenance hanger, a facility for security forces, construction of a 1,500-foot road for an aircraft homing beacon and the construction of two bed-down areas to house up to 500 personnel.

Some Kentucky Airmen, like Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Blair, were recognized by wing leadership for their exceptional performance in direct support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Blair, a material control specialist involved in ordering parts and materials needed to complete work, solved a deficiency in the supply of barrier cables used to slow aircraft during emergency landings at Bagram Airfield.

“I remembered that the barriers we use at home during the Thunder Over Louisville air show come from Minot Air Force Base, so I gave them a call to get in touch with someone that could help us,” she said. “I was able to get them to send us five more cables that we were in dire need of.”

Despite such personal accomplishments, Blair was quick to offer praise for her fellow 123rd Airmen.

“Our guys work hard and take pride in everything they do, which is why our quality of work is so high,” she said. “We are a collection of the best the Air Force has to offer.”

Over a period of six months, Bagram typically will support more than 19,000 sorties, process over 200,000 personnel and move 1.2 million pounds of cargo, Fautz said, making it the busiest airfield in the world operated by the U.S. military.

That also makes it one of the largest challenges to support, from a civil engineering standpoint, but it was a challenge the Kentucky Airmen were ready to conquer, Fautz said.

“We have outstanding and very skilled personnel with us at every position,” he said. “These Airmen are not afraid to take on anything. They don’t give up or quit when the task seems impossible. They just rally together, dig in and get it done. Then they ask, ‘OK, what’s next?’ ”

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