Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Flying Tigers of Afghanistan

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - A pair of A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, get their final weapons check before taking off on a close-air-support mission. The aircraft assigned here provide close-air support and airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for American and coalition ground troops.
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Lake

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Staff Sgt. James Irvin, from the 74th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, performs an air cycle machine inspection to ensure the A-10 Thunderbolt functions properly, here July 20. Sergeant Irvin is deployed from the 23rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Ga. and hails from Kerrville, Texas. They support Coalition forces on a daily basis in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Felicia Juenke

Historic Flying Tigers Excel at Close Air Support Mission in Afghanistan

by Tech. Sgt. John Jung
455th Expeditionary Public Affairs

7/21/2009 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --

They trace their heritage back to the famous Flying Tigers of WWII's war-torn China. In homage to the storied Airmen of the past, the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., still has the iconic sharks face painted on the front of their A-10 Thunderbolt II's, lovingly nicknamed the "Warthog."

The Warthog's mission is to provide close air support and precision engagement missions throughout Afghanistan on a daily basis in support of Coalition ground forces.

But before the pilots ever get in the Warthog, it's the 74th Aircraft Maintenance Unit that gets the aircraft airborne. There has not been a single day in the deployment of the 74th EFS that squadron didn't have at least two aircraft airborne providing support to their warrior counterparts on the ground.

"Just like the Airmen that defended China in World War II, the 74th AMU is often short on resources, maintain aging aircraft and must make do with what they can," said Capt. James Schieser, 74th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit, Officer-in-Charge. "The strong leadership, dedication and perseverance of our non-commissioned officers, senior non-commissioned officers and officer corps, are what ensure every aircraft is fully mission-capable. The maintainers of the 74th AMU understand, with the Flying Tiger legacy they inherited, failure is not an option."

To date the Flying Tigers have broken records by flying upwards of 12,000 mission hours, expending more than 100 tons of ordinance in the CAS mission since arriving in February 2009. However, many times all it took was a show of force to end an engagement.

"We seek to avoid civilian casualties in all our operations - period," said Senior Master Sgt. Victor Castillo, 74th AMU Weapons Section Superintendent. "We have a variety of methods we use including loading of precision guided munitions, monthly updates of aircraft digital maps, and daily maintenance of our targeting systems to ensure the safety of innocent civilians on the ground."

But when enemy combatants don't flee after a show of force, the Warthog can deliver a precise strike to protect Coalition ground forces.

Army Specialist Jason Dorsey, "C" Company, 178th Infantry, saw firsthand the precision and power of the Warthog.

"The A-10s were a valuable asset to us on ground missions here in Afghanistan. Their speed and precise targeting provided great support for us and kept the bad guys' heads down during firefights," Spc. Dorsey said.

"We have so many soldiers coming in from the field to thank us - it's their stories of desperately needing 'air' and seeing an A-10 flying overhead providing cover for them that kept us energized and motivated," said Senior Master Sgt. Thomas E. Moore, 74th AMU Lead Production Superintendent. "It kept us working hard even when it seemed all we were doing was launching and recovering jets 24/7."

Editor's Note: You may remember from THIS POST, that I am a fan of the Warhog! I also have a personal attachment to the Flying Tigers and grew up with their legends. This is a story dear to my heart!


Buck said...

I like the WarThogs, too... but am partial to the Lawn Darts, since that's the airframe SN1 plays with... :D

Bigfoot said...

I love the A-10. It should be the last thing a Talibanite or Al Qaedan sees before meeting Allah.

Flag Gazer said...

Buck - is there such a thing as a plane that isn't wonderful!?!

Bigfoot - Like your thinking!