“Fueling the Fight” for Operation Enduring Freedom

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Henry Hamby
  • 92nd Air Refueling Squadron commander
I was honored to have the opportunity to command the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron at the Manas Transit Center, Kyrgyzstan from September 2010 until January 2011.

The 22nd EARS is made up of 80 airmen primarily deployed from Fairchild. Our primary mission was air refueling support to OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. In addition to refueling, the 22nd EARS also supported the transit center's humanitarian assistance and partnership capacity mission. 
This experience has been the highlight of my career because I knew the success of our squadron made a difference to the International Security Assistance Forces on the ground in Afghanistan and for the people of Kyrgyzstan.

The 80 airmen of the 22nd EARS provided more than 25 percent of the refueling missions needed by combat assets to ensure the safety of the ground forces in Afghanistan. When called upon the fighter and bomber assets we refueled struck enemy forces targeting our comrades in the rugged Afghan mountains. The nature of the ground conflict resulted in a very dynamic air refueling support environment. In many instances, the KC-135s were re-tasked in flight to support the airstrike assets responding to calls for help from our ground forces. The tanker crews did a phenomenal job immediately responding to these changes to decrease the response time of the fighters and bombers to the troops on the ground.

During the Afghani national elections on Sept.18, the 22nd EARS tankers supported more than 100 calls by troops in contact with enemy forces. There's no doubt the 22nd EARS had a strategic impact on the ability of the Afghani citizens to get to the polls.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the fantastic support of the 376th Expeditionary Air Maintenance Squadron made up primarily of maintainers from Fairchild. During the period of my deployment, the 376th EAMXS ensured a phenomenal 95 percent mission effectiveness.

In addition to the refueling mission, the 22nd EARS supported the humanitarian assistance and partnership capacity mission. We did so by developing relationships with our honorary commander, Mr. Stalbeck Mambetakunov. He is the mayor of three villages in the vicinity of the transit center. Through this relationship, in conjunction with civil engineering, we volunteered to install clear plastic over the windows of three village schools. This was a small contribution, but had a significant impact to the temperature in the schools due to the poor condition of the windows.

Most of the public buildings have not been maintained since the fall of the Soviet Union so to say they are "drafty" is an understatement. We also delivered coats and blankets provided by the Spokane community to the less fortunate.

In addition to the humanitarian assistance provided by the transit center, the 22nd EARS and 376th EAMXS provided KC-135 static displays for several events to include "Friends and Family Day," attended by more than 1000 family members of the Kyrgy's employed by the transit center.

I was absolutely blessed to have had the opportunity to lead the professional Airmen of the 22nd EARS. I was part of a tremendous team making a difference everyday for our comrades in Afghanistan and the people of Kyrgyzstan.