17 February, 2012 Aloha from the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force (TF) Wings, here in Kandahar Afghanistan. Today, the Brigade Headquarters completed our Relief in Place (RIP) and Transfer of Authority (TOA) ceremony with 159th Aviation Brigade, TF Thunder, from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Preceding the Brigade’s TOA, in the last two weeks, all the TFs within the Brigade have completed their TOAs. This is a day of transition for TF Wings; we have completed our training and preparations that began in August 2010, and we now assume the mission to “Fly for the Troops” here in Regional Command South, (RC(S)), under the commander of Major General Huggins, and his 82d Airborne Division team.
I must start by thanking COL Todd Royar, his Soldiers, and the Battalion Task Forces in TF Thunder. TF Wings had a detailed, complete, and very professional RIP. Todd set a personal example of how an outgoing commander can go out of his way to ensure mission success for the incoming unit. As our Tropic Lightning Soldiers assume the mission from TF Thunder, we are in a great position to successfully execute our mission during the next 12 months. I would like to extend my best wishes to Todd and TF Thunder as they return to Fort Campbell to prepare for their next rendezvous with destiny after their fabulous rotation to Afghanistan. TF Wings has grown since it left Hawaii, and the team has only gotten stronger. Our Attack TF, 1-2 Aviation, the Gunfighters, out of Fort Carson has joined us. Also joining the Wings team, under TF Hammerhead is: B/1-111 Aviation flying CH47Ds and C/1-171 Aviation (MEDEVAC). We also have two CH47s from the Australian Army who will be part of Task Force Hammerhead.
Additionally, we have two unique assets in the TF: a fixed wing detachment, executing an Electronic Warfare mission, and a detachment of C27J aircraft, the Spartans, from the Ohio Air National Guard. Both these detachments will execute missions directly for TF Wings and RC(S). We are a diverse and dynamic combat capability executing missions from Kandahar, FOB Wolverine, Tarin Kowt, and numerous FOBs in Regional Command Southwest (RC(SW)) supporting Marine forces with MEDEVAC. Another unique aspect of TF Wings is our opportunity to work with aircrews from United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE aviation TF includes both Apaches and Blackhawks who routinely execute missions with our aircrews.
In addition to supporting full spectrum aviation operations, we are partnered with several other forces. We have a partnership with Afghanistan Security Forces, both police and Army, with our Pathfinders in TF Lightning Horse and TF Diamond Head. Most importantly, we have partnered
with the Afghanistan Air Forceâ€™s Kandahar Air Wing (KAW) which flies Mi-17 helicopters. As I get to spend more time with the KAW, I can see their proficiency, pride in their service, and their capabilities growing. These pilots are a great example of the tough and proud people around this country who want to have a safe and secure life for their children. I think we can help them achieve this dream.
One of the many questions I get asked is how our Soldiers are living here in Afghanistan. We are all safe, some of us are very crowded- the Soldiers in Kandahar- some are living really well, Tarin Kowt and Wolverine, and some are living in very austere conditions in RC(SW). But as you know, Soldiers will find a way to make the best of their situation. Home improvement projects, the internet, and finding ways to work out in some fantastic gyms are the highlights of their off time. I can remember being here in 2004, and overall, Kandahar Airfield is greatly improved, and we will continue to improve our area here and our areas at the other sites.
Our families and Rear Detachment did a phenomenal job of getting us out the door. Our families are really starting to take advantage of the Family Support Center (FSC) on Wheeler Army Airfield. The FSC is an effort we made to get services, support, and resources all together in one place for our families. In the FSC, it is possible for a family to meet friends, email and Skype their Soldier, receive legal and personnel action advice, and talk to experts about a challenge the family is facing. We know that when a Soldier deploys, the family also deploys, and it is critical that we continue to care for our families. A good example of the great people working for our families in Hawaii is Miss Emily Harrison. Emily was recently named Employee of the Year - Administrative Support in the 2012 Army Civilian Recognition Program. On a sadder note, SGT Sablan who was in the 209th Rear Detachment, and who was projected to come forward to join the 209th, passed away on Friday, 10 February due to an apparent heart attack while conducting physical training. We appreciate the prayers, support, and assistance that people all over the world have given to us as the Brigade deals with this tragedy. TF Wings is ready and prepared for our mission. This is an auspicious time in the history of Operation Enduring Freedom, and we look forward to making a positive difference in the lives of the Afghan people. Many of the Solders in the Brigade were with us in 2007 when the Brigade made a difference in Iraq. We will continue to ensure that we are “flying for the troops”, as they work tremendously hard all over RC(S) and RC(SW). You can be proud of the TF Wings Soldiers and their families as they face the challenges ahead. I will send out periodic updates to you on the Brigade. Please feel free to follow us on our Facebook Page and the Brigade’s webpage as we chronicle our Soldiers and their efforts. Please keep our Soldiers and our families in your hearts and prayers during this next 12 months. We are determined to make you proud and to make a difference here in Afghanistan. Wings of Lightning25th CAB Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/25thCAB 25th CAB Webpage: http://www.25idl.army.mil/25_cab.html