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Airmen contribute to joint fight across Afghanistan

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Airmen of the 755th Air Expeditionary Group are in the fight everywhere you look. Their day-to-day mission may not be the U.S. Air Force's mission to fly, but these Joint Expeditionary Tasked Airmen are ready to fight and win.

These Airmen, many of whom are performing outside the wire operations on a daily basis, complete many missions in support of U.S. and coalition forces and assist Afghan National Security Forces in the development of their military and their nation.

"JET Airmen do remarkable things that don't traditionally fall in line with what they do at home station," said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Terrell Thomas, 955th Air Expeditionary Squadron, superintendant.

As a squadron superintendant working for the 755th AEG, Chief Thomas has been able to travel with the Airmen on convoy operations explaining them as, "seamless immersion" into assigned units and performing in a "one team, one mission," mindset which is essential to in theater operations.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Patrick Seiler, a resource advisor with the U.S. Army's Combined Joint Task Force 82 Regional Support Team East is an Air Force Financial Services Center manager at his home station of Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.

"I was a section chief for permanent-change-of-station travel vouchers," he said. "I managed a team that processed payment vouchers for Air Combat Command and Air Force Department of Washington."

In Afghanistan, Sergeant Seiler processes multimillion dollar fund requests for ANSF, but that is only a small portion of his day-to-day responsibilities.

"Everything I do varies every day," the Brooklyn, NY native explains.

"One day I may wake up and help our vehicle gunners clean our crew-served weapons, or do maintenance on our up armored vehicles, the next, I may ensure we have food and equipment ready to depart for a three day trip to Jalalabad. We've worked an important joint project with the French and Afghans at FOB Moralis Frasier and we've even coordinated resupply air drop missions as well."

Although financial coordination is Master Sergeant Seiler's primary duty, when the RST-E team hits the road, he transforms into a convoy driver.

"I have had the training to complete the preventive maintenance service checks and I try to think of whatever vehicle I drive as my personal vehicle," said Sergeant Seiler. "I treat it like it's mine because ultimately that vehicle has to get me and my team to our destination and back safely. I have to make sure the vehicle is ready to go with weapons mounted and communication equipment operational."

Once preconvoy operations are complete and the RST-E team departs for destinations across Regional Command East, they become ambassadors, employing counterinsurgency operations, Sergeant Seiler added.

"We may bring Afghan money, called Afghanis, and stop in small towns we pass through to do something as simple as buy bread to support the local economy and we try to explain to the local nationals what we are doing here," said Sergeant Seiler. "We want them to know we are here to assist them in establishing their country and giving them their own security so we can go home and their country can flourish under their hands.

"I have been on numerous survey and set up missions since arriving in Afghanistan in November, "Sergeant Seiler added. "And I have seen the importance of what we are doing as a joint force first hand, and some of the things we've been able to accomplish are pretty amazing."

Since his arrival, Sergeant Seiler and the RST-E team has coordinated, built and supplied more than 20 forward operating bases for ANSF and this opportunity to work in a joint service environment has taught him a lot about one of his sister services.

Sergeant Seiler said he began the deployment with some preconceived notions and hesitations about working with the Army and most of those thoughts were quickly dispelled. "I am impressed with the teamwork and dedication to mission accomplishment that the team has. It is definitely a different mindset than what I am used to, but that is the challenge and the reward of working with another service branch."

He added, "The comradery is awesome and these guys really work for each other and the success of the mission and it really makes you want to do your part to accomplish the mission."

This teamwork is not lost on U.S. Army Col. Kevin G. Fagedes, commander RST-E. "I have a great team here and they are really making some great contributions in supporting the Afghan forces. Our job is to equip the local forces and get them what they need to operate effectively."

Colonel Fagedes, deployed from Fort Gillem, Ga., hailed the Air Force personnel as a great force multiplier and not just bodies filling slots. "These guys bring a lot of technical aspects that we don't have on the team." He added, "They bring resource management, engineering skills and technical knowhow that is vital to the success of our mission."

"Before I deployed, I had a very different perception of the Air Force," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Justin Bremer, RST-E operations planner. "I had never worked with the Air Force and I had the feeling it was an easier branch."

Sergeant Bremer, deployed from the Tenn. National Guard Headquarters, Nashville, Tenn., added, "I have been in country almost a year and my perception has definitely changed. The Airmen we work with are knowledgeable on their specific job and often familiar with other job, which allows them to coordinate and accomplish a variety of tasks outside of their scope to help the team."

"I am a gunner on Sergeant Seiler's truck, and I work with him regularly when we are on convoy," he added. "I must admit, after working so closely with Air Force personnel my view has changed. There are some advantages and disadvantages with belonging to each service branch but we all wear the same boots and we are all working towards the same goal."

"I think that no matter what service branch you are in the end goal is the same," added Sergeant Seiler. "Deployments are good. The JET taskings are important because it gets us out there to see things other than our normal Air Force way of life. "

He added, "I have worked for some outstanding leaders here, I have been able to experience the side of a deployment that most Airmen will never see and I am able to get out and feel that I am making a difference."