|U.S. Aircraft Arrive at Coalition Base|
U.S. Aircraft Arrive at Coalition Base
By Master Sgt. Tim Helton, 376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs.
Operation Enduring Freedom -- (AFPN) April 24, 2002 -- Four months after Air Force and coalition forces constructed an air base in the middle of Kyrgyzstan, the first American fighter aircraft to be assigned here arrived.
An FA-18D Hornet, from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., taxies by French Mirage 2000 aircraft after arriving at deployed site in Kyrgyzstan. The FA-18 became the first American aircraft to be assigned to the coalition base.
Photo by Master Sgt. Jerry King
Six Marine FA-18D Hornet fighter aircraft and their crews arrived to attack and destroy targets remaining in Afghanistan and support ground forces as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"This is a great day for the coalition forces," said Brig. Gen. Wayne Lloyd, 376th Air Expeditionary Wing commander. "The addition of the Hornets, together with the other coalition aircraft, increases our capability of putting ‘bombs on target’ in Afghanistan."
Before the FA-18s’ arrival, Air Force and coalition forces had to turn more than 200 acres of bare land into a compound of nearly 220 tents and an airfield able to accommodate air operations.
Once the base was established, the 376th AEW and U.S. Marines faced the challenge of getting U.S. military aircraft and more than 160 Marines into a former Soviet Union country.
"There were several challenges," said Marine Corps Capt. William Gray, All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 121 spokesman and aviation logistics officer. "In planning, it was waiting for the airfield to be complete enough to support operations. Logistically, we had to move, literally, to the other side of the world. It took three intermediate stops along the way and only one had hornet parts support. Then in the end, the aircraft had to hold in Afghanistan for the resolution of diplomatic clearance issues."
Now that they are here, the Marines understand their job and are determined to use the Hornets as long as it takes to complete the mission.
"The Hornets have been tasked to support the war on terrorism by taking the fight to those enemy forces that remain in Afghanistan," said Gray. "We are prepared to support Operation Enduring Freedom and conduct operations from here as long as our capabilities are needed in this fight."
Although the Marines have arrived, it is not only their fight -- rather a team effort and they look forward to working with the Air Force and the other coalition partners, Gray said.
"We are expeditionary in nature and well suited to combat in all types of environments," Gray said. "Our ability to operate in all kinds of weather and during hours of darkness takes away some of the enemy’s options when it comes to hiding. The capabilities we and other coalition forces bring to the fight will mesh together to form a well-integrated, highly effective team."
The Marines from the VMFA (AW)-121, Green Knights, from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., have been training and anticipating their opportunity to participate in this war. Gray said they are happy to finally be involved.
"Marines are proud to be part of the coalition forces in support of Operation Enduring Freedom," said Gray. "The aircrews have performed numerous training sorties in preparation for this deployment and our maintenance personnel have been working hard to make sure the aircraft are in the best possible material condition.
"It feels great to be here and be a part of the coalition force that is battling terrorism," said Gray. "It is both an honor and a privilege to serve our country and this noble cause."