By Adamarie Lewis Page, Public Affairs, 62d Airlift Wing
MCCHORD FIELD, JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – More than 120 Airmen from the 4th Airlift Squadron returned Jan. 6 after a 120-day deployment in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, New Dawn and Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.
The 4th AS Airmen were deployed as the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron to an overseas contingency location in the Middle East.
“Our deployment was a success as a result of the hard work, professionalism and safety-focus of many, including that of our sister squadrons,” said Lt. Col. Ira Cline, 816th EAS commander. “We were fortunate to be a part of wide variety of missions including the delivery of M1A1 Abrams tanks into Afghanistan, life-saving aeromedical evacuations, transporting several distinguished visitors including the Secretary of Defense, airdropping more than 16 million pounds of CDS (container delivery system) bundles to remote forward operating bases and flying media and Boeing representatives on the C-17 Globemaster III’s two-millionth flight hour. The entire team, top to bottom, simply did an outstanding job. I’m really proud of this group of Airmen.”
During their deployment, the C-17 squadron flew 2,204 sorties, equaling more than 12,900 hours, moving more than 48,000 passengers and delivering more than 91.4 million pounds of combat sustainment cargo for U.S. military forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and operations in East Africa.
“In my perspective, combat airdrops in Afghanistan are some of the best flying I’ve ever known,” said Capt. Rick Kind, 816th EAS pilot and aircraft commander. “We’re making a difference with U.S. and Coalition troops out on the ground in middle of nowhere. Anything they need, we deliver.”
With the help of the 816th EAS, the C-17 Globemaster III celebrated its two-millionth flight hour last month. Although Air Mobility Command officials estimate the international C-17 fleet passed the milestone on Dec. 14, the achievement was commemorated on a Dec. 10 airdrop mission out of Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
“It was amazing to be part of something like this,” said Senior Airman Carrie Symons, 816th EAS loadmaster. “I’m proud to say I was on an airdrop mission that made history.”
According to other Airmen assigned to the 816th EAS, participating in the two-millionth flight hour was not only an honor, but a memory that will last a lifetime.
“It was such an honor to be part of the two-millionth flight hour airdrop mission,” said Capt. Jordan Leicht, 816th EAS pilot. “This deployment was definitely the highlight of my career so far.”
Although Airmen enjoyed the successes and accomplishments during their deployment, they were happy to be home and spend time with their families.
“I’m thankful for that experience,” said Captain Leicht. “I’m also very thankful for coming home safely and having the opportunity to spend time with my family.”
“This was my husband’s first deployment,” said Katie Leicht, wife of Captain Leicht. “I had a great support system to keep me smiling while he was gone. But I’m just so glad to have him back home.”
Members of the 4th AS were replaced by the 7th AS, which departed for the Middle East Dec. 28 and are expected to return in April.