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There I Was...

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Charles Cramer
  • 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron
On 1 September 2013, I started on another journey that would land me in Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Although it first came as a surprise due to my short time on station, it was just another deployment...or so I thought. Upon my 1 a.m. arrival to KAF, I was met by a cheerful fellow who was very happy to see me...yup, you guessed it...I was his replacement. We started with a tour of the base and its facilities before settling in for a much needed nap. The following day was very routine as far as in-processing goes; however, that evening showed proof that we were indeed in a war zone and it continued for several months.

Within two days of arrival, I got to meet my leadership. This was a volatile part of my deployment as there was enough tension to cut with a knife. It was nearly six weeks before I felt firmly planted into my role at KAF, partially due to the confrontational aspect of the situation, and partially due to my ego. The only thing I will say about the subject is this; there is no situation that you cannot get through. What you need to do is have the desire to press forward, always take care of your people the best that you can, and remain focused on the mission...the rest will follow suit.

My position as the flight chief of vehicle maintenance also included the function of contract officer representative for the fine folks of DynCorp. There were nearly as many civilians as military, which was a welcomed benefit. Our civilians were focused, hardworking and dedicated to the mission. Of course we had our share of hot-heads and class-clowns, but we always got the job done. There were two folks in particular who really stood out in both a humorous sense and a mission-focus as well. Although they shall remain nameless, their contributions were invaluable. They had a way about them that helped our military personnel remain on-task while at the same time providing stress relief when needed. These two had been in-place for multiple years, and because of this, they had the "connections" necessary to ensure smooth operations.

The primary focus of our mission was the proper redistribution of our vehicles and weapons systems both in and out of theater. Initially, there was no official guidance, at least which was agreed upon, since our shipping methods involved multiple military services. The biggest "guidance concern" was the "customs inspection process" which changed more times in a week than did our socks. Once we had settled on the guidance, we started down a rocky road that was "customs-cleaning." After our third customs failure in a row, we began the intensive, around-the-clock cleaning of every vehicle destined for shipment. Let's just say that we disassembled, cleaned, cleaned, cleaned again, and reassembled every vehicle prior to the custom's inspection. It took some time, and a ton of hard work to get this process right, but when we did, the assets began to fly out of theater (no pun intended). At the end of our tour, shipment numbers were well above the anticipated goal, and we held the area of responsibility record for consecutive first-time customs inspection passes. Additionally, we were able to not only achieve, but actually sustain a 96 percent mission capable rate for the base vehicle fleet...a far cry from meek beginnings.

One of our biggest "connections" mentioned earlier, was with an Army Engineering Brigade who shared our facility. We worked hand-in-hand with these folks assisting each other whenever possible. It was through this connection that we found our niche in helping to take down the bad guys. Once we had a taste for this, it just snowballed from there. We worked day and night, sometimes 30 or more hours, with our Army brethren and several other government agencies to make a real difference in the war on terror. Skipping the details, we were able to relieve the battlefield of more than 100 high value targets, and seized multiple weapons caches through unorthodox, yet legal use of available resources.

Although this deployment started very poorly, it grew to become my best one to date, and this was entirely due to the personnel on my team. From the lowest ranking Airman, to the civilian site manager, the vehicle maintenance team was simply unrivaled. Never have I had the pleasure of working with such a dedicated, caring and fun-loving bunch of people who performed "with precision & excellence".

...I will forever remember the men and women of the KAF Vehicle RETROGRADE!!!