Operation Uplift: the few prepare for many at rapidly growing KAF

U.S. Air Force Maj. Jon Roe, Lt. Col. Patrick Schuldt, Master Sgt. Kevin Peterson and Maj. Geoffrey Border (left to right), leaders assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron, review plans for the continual build-up at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan Feb. 22, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Jon Roe, Lt. Col. Patrick Schuldt, Master Sgt. Kevin Peterson and Maj. Geoffrey Border (left to right), leaders assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron, review plans for the continual build-up at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan Feb. 22, 2018. The 11-person EOSS team at KAF rearranged 30 percent of the units on the airfield to support the addition of dozens of U.S. Air Force aircraft in January. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Jenna Lenski)

Airmen assigned to the 303rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron aircraft maintenance unit work in one of the tents coordinated for set-up by the 451st Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan Feb. 22, 2018.

Airmen assigned to the 303rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron aircraft maintenance unit work in one of the tents coordinated for set-up by the 451st Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan Feb. 22, 2018. The 11-person EOSS team stepped outside of their primary job duties to lead the plans, renovations and logistics needed to support the addition of the nearly 700 Airmen that joined their team last month. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Jenna Lenski)

An A-10 Thunderbolt II, assigned to the 303rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, sits on the newly realigned flight line at the 451st Air Expeditionary Group, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan Feb. 22, 2018.

An A-10 Thunderbolt II, assigned to the 303rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, sits on the newly realigned flight line at the 451st Air Expeditionary Group, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan Feb. 22, 2018. As the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan calls for bringing in an additional U.S. Army contingent called Security Force Assistance Brigade, the U.S. Air Force assigned A-10 Thunderbolt II’s, HH-60 Pave Hawks and additional MQ-9 Reapers to operate out of KAF to support the ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Jenna Lenski)

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --

You’re walking down the sidewalk taking in a beautiful day and you happen to notice a candy wrapper tumbling in the breeze toward you. 

 

“I like to use the ‘candy wrapper’ analogy.  Do you bother to pick it up and put it in the trash?  Well my people do,” said Lt. Col. Patrick Schuldt, commander of the 451st Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.  “It’s why they’re effective.  They see what needs to be done and they make it happen.”

 

The 11-person EOSS team, assigned to the 451st Air Expeditionary Group, stepped outside of their primary job duties to lead the plans, renovations and logistics needed to support the addition of the nearly 700 Airmen that joined their team last month.

 

As the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan calls for bringing in an additional U.S. Army contingent called the Security Force Assistance Brigade, the U.S. Air Force assigned A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, HH-60G Pave Hawks and additional MQ-9 Reapers to operate out of KAF to support the ground troops.  Added flying squadrons means added pilots, maintainers, intelligence specialists, security forces and other support staff.

 

“After the added aircraft were initially capable for operations, they didn’t tell us how and they didn’t give us a timeline to set up for secondary support tasks,” said Schuldt, who is an E-11 pilot by trade.  “But this team leaned forward to solve those problems quickly instead of leaving them for other rotations to figure out.”

 

C2 Overhaul

 

Master Sgt. Kevin Peterson, 451st EOSS superintendent, led the building overhauls, communications requirements and logistics that made the increased operations at KAF possible.

 

“We knew that we needed to get all the command and control nodes under one roof in order to increase the cross talk,” said Peterson.  “Our airfield is very dynamic with all the different services and air frames.”

 

Command and control, called C2, is the nucleus of an operation.  For EOSS at Kandahar, it includes elements like maintenance operations for each flying squadron, command post, weather flight, and airfield management.  Within weeks of finding out about the SFAB support arrival, the team synced six C2 nodes into one work center for easier and faster operations.

 

Standing up an area for the commanders and leaders on the crisis action team to manage any kind of emergency was another accomplishment for the EOSS team.  They dusted off and refurbished a collaborative space for the CAT to convene, which meant knocking out walls, establishing 60 different lines of communication, and procuring furniture and office supplies. 

 

“Even though these guys are only here for a fighting season, it’s going to continue and this is what we’re going to need for an enduring presence here,” said Peterson.

 

Airfield Organization

 

With dozens of new aircraft added to their plate, the EOSS also had to realign the aircraft parking plan to ensure adequate space was given to each unit.  They rearranged 30 percent of units on the airfield, consolidating space on the flight line by mission set and service.

 

The resourceful team, with the help of an engineering and installation team from a different unit, began moving T-walls, ripping up concrete, making sure the flight line was clean to use, and finding suitable furniture for the operations and maintenance offices. 

 

They made sure every squadron had what they needed to operate down to the smallest detail.  If soldiers call in close air support, crews and maintainers can launch the A-10s from an immaculate flight line.  If people get injured on the battlefield, the operations staff in the HH-60 compound has seamless communications outlets to coordinate their sorties.

 

Peterson recalled the desolate condition KAF was in upon first arriving four months ago. 

 

“Clearly this place looked like it was going to shut down when we first got here.  It was a big turn for everybody,” he said.

 

Long-term Mission

 

Largely responsible for dusting off KAF to ensure airpower success, the EOSS team helped establish 36 work centers, realigned 12 parking plans, and helped activate 150 lines of communication.

 

Balancing their time and resources to complete their primary job duties and prepare for the surge, the EOSS team saw the fruits of their labor when the A-10 squadron flew their first mission within 24 hours of arriving at KAF in January.

 

When the SFAB arrives at KAF in March, Peterson hopes the added squadrons and upcoming rotations won’t have to do anything in regard to maintaining their wartime work environments. 

 

“I hope that we did everything to set them up for success so that they only have to focus on their mission,” Peterson said.  “My Airmen and I wanted to set it up that perfectly.”