Air Force Band of Brothers

A long year has finally come to an end.  We are still spending our last days in Ali Al Salem AB, Kuwait waiting for the “Freedom Bird” to transport us to BWI Airport.  Here we will say our goodbyes and each of us will take a different connecting flight back to our homes and to our families who are anxiously awaiting our arrival.  It will be a bitter sweet moment when this happens.  It has been a long year we’ve shared together.

Helping to rescue Afghan family after a bad car accident at J-Bad Pass in June 2009.

When you live, sleep, and eat with a group of men over a year’s period of time, you develop a bond that is not only professional but personal as well.  These are the same team members you entrust your life to when going on a mission outside the wire.  But the bond my Air Force brothers shared was rather unique and I never experienced this type of closeness on any other deployments in the past.  Prior to this deployment, most of us had never met or knew each other.  We were assembled as a team at Fort Riley, Kansas.  Of the 10 personnel featured in the photograph, 8 of us were on the same team and shared the same open-bay sleeping quarters and trained together as a team.

My ETT Team displaying their Bronze Star Medals.

When you have this type of an arrangement, it’s hard not to learn about the personal lives, ambitions, and goals of your fellow members.  Even though we had a rank structure to include officer and enlisted, we established a strong bond of unity and personal friendship.  Being assigned to the Army had its challenges, but we learned the Army procedures and before long, we were conducting our own missions using Army vehicles and weaponry.  Our journeys took us outside the wire to some very remote villages.  Whether you were a gunner, driver, or truck commander, everyone played an integral role and you learned to trust each person with your life and theirs in return.  Unlike many teams who struggle with the forming and storming stage, our team quickly advanced past the norming stage and moved into the performing phase.  Bottom line:  We were damn good at what we did and efficient at how we did it!

Traveling through the Uzbin valley.

Our primary mission was to mentor the Afghan National Army (ANA) on logistics processes.  First, we had to understand the basic Afghan supply system patterned after the Army’s antiquated supply processes.  Then we were expected to advise our ANA counterparts on the intricacies of this logistics process.  Not only did we succeed, but collectively we excelled at our first camp with our ANA counterparts.  Our ANA Kandak was awarded the Minister of Defense’s Capability Milestone 1, which is the highest rating a unit can receive and the warehouse area was lauded as “best seen to date.”  So this was testament to what our team could achieve.

Jorga (village meeting) in Yakdand Mountains.

Not only did we accompany our ANA counterparts on logistics missions, we went on joint humanitarian missions to some secluded villages nestled in the Hindu Kush Mountains.  While on these journeys we saw poppy fields as far as the eyes could see and crude mud brick houses without electricity.  I affectionately called this “driving through the Old Testament area.”  We saw towering mountains and climbed a few along the way too.  It truly was an experience!!  Despite being exposed to the perils of rockets, mortars, RPGs, small arms fire, IED devices, and planned Taliban ambushes, we came out of this deployment unscathed.

Capt Matthew Freeman memorial Camp Blackhorse Aug. 2009

Unfortunately, we attended the memorial services of our camp mates and mourned for those who had their life taken by the insurgents we are at war with.  These men and women are the true heroes and their sacrifices will never be forgotten.

In the end, the US Army recognized our accomplishments as well and awarded my entire team Bronze Star Medals for “Exceptionally meritorious service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom … personal courage and commitment to mission accomplishment in a combat zone, under the most extreme of circumstances, greatly contributed to the success of Operation Enduring Freedom.”  What makes this medal so unique (without being self-serving) is that this is an Air Force team who was given an Army mission and performed remarkably in a combat zone.  I don’t know how many Air Force teams can make this same claim because it’s truly a unique accomplishment.  In fact, as the Army migrates to the “partnership concept”, the

We helped treat this little girl during a village medical mission in June 2009; her nose was rotting away from Mucocutaneous Leishmaniasis disease.

Embedded Training Teams (ETT) will disappear.  We were one of the last Air Force ETT teams left in Afghanistan and can proudly mark our place in history.

Tomorrow we fly our final leg of this journey together and then will go our separate ways when we land in Baltimore. It’s not a final goodbye because I have a feeling sometime in the future we will see each other again.  But this will be the last time we serve in this capacity as a team.  To my Air Force Band of Brothers, it was an honor and a privilege to serve with you.  I wish you all the best and to your families who are anxiously awaiting your return.  We can be proud of what we did and let us never forget, freedom is not free.


19 Responses

  1. And this American is very proud of the fact that our country was represented in Afghanistan by such a fine, professional group of soldiers.

  2. Thank you, and your Band Of Brothers, and your families, for the commitment and how your carried out your mission and represented us in a hostile environment.

  3. Rex, Dad and I are so proud of your accomplishments, along with your whole team, and congratulations on receiving your Bronze Stars. You have served your country proudly!

  4. God speed each of you to your homes and your futures. Thank you from at least one grateful American.

  5. SMSgt,

    Thank you for your service to our country and the Afghan people. Thank you for providing information to those of us whose hungry hearts, if not in bodies, are still in Afghanistan. God speed you home to your wife, family and your next mission in life.

    Hooah! (one more to add to your list. )

  6. Rex,
    You have allowed us to go with you on this journey. I have learned so much about your mission, the people of Afghanistan, and once again how blessed we are to live in a country where we can worship as we wish and for the most part do what we want. All of this is because of brave people like yourself who have taken on this task with such grace.

    THANK YOU! And we want to see you and Liisa back up in our are some time!

    Enjoy your homecoming with Liisa and your doggies!

    Mary Lu 🙂

  7. I will miss your posts on a number of levels. First, as a Fobbit, I have enjoyed the view out the window that you have given me. Second, I view your mission as most important.

    I don’t know what is going to happen with ETT leaving theater. We have such a long way to go. But I will remain cautiously optimistic that our efforts will make a long-term difference.

    Thank you for your service and your great blog!
    Surgeon, 909th FST
    USAR, MC

  8. Rex,
    I thank you so much for your postings everyday. My daughter in law having 4 daughters to care for and keep up with church and school events plus working a job and caring for their horses just did not have time to sit and chat and share. In Feb. when I learned of your postings it was the most wonderful thing. I loved seeing pictures of son and all that you were doing and places you were going. Thank you for taking the time to do the postings for all of us back here at home with all that you all had to do. You kept us so informed and allowed us to pray with a rifle instead of a shotgun. Thank you so much for keeping us here at home posted. You be blessed and highly favored.
    Linda Gardner

  9. Thank you so much for your service to our country. I enjoyed reading about your deployment. I am so happy for your upcoming homecoming. My Marine son just returned from deployment last week so I know what it means.

    Congrats to you and your Band of Brothers on winning the Bronze Star!

  10. […] the original post: Air Force Band of Brothers « Afghanistan My Last Tour Aviation […]

  11. Dear Rex,
    We are so proud of you and your group getting the Bronz Star. We loved reading about all your missions and you were kept safe. Hope by now the volcano has let you get your flight home. Welcome back. Love Aunt Carole & Uncle Clark

  12. Rex, We are so proud of you and your team for achieving your missions and receiving the Bronze Star Medal. Congratulations! Thank you for your service to our great nation, your accomplishments and expertise in your skill. We thank God for his protection over you and look forward to your return stateside.

    I have enjoyed reading your very detailed blog over the past year, and congratulations also for receiving the award for this.

    Stay in touch. Looking forward to seeing you and Liisa soon.

    With love, Aunt Lois

  13. […] deployed, SMSgt Temple wrote a blog called “Afghanistan: My Last Tour.” His most recent post, Air Force Band of Brothers, talks about deployed life in Afghanistan and the Bronze Star Medals that he and his Air Force team […]

  14. Welcome Home.

    So proud of you all am anxious to hear you all are back to your home states and families.

    Congratulations to all of you on your Bronze Medal. Our family wants to say thank you all for what you have done serving our country. Job well done.

    Will miss the daily postings but so happy you are all back to your country and families. All of you be blessed and highly favored.
    Linda Gardner

  16. WELCOME HOME!!!!!
    So proud of you all, am anxious to hear you are all are back to your home states and families.

    Congratulations to all of you on your Bronze metals. Our family wants to say thank you all for what you have done serving our country. Job well done.

    Will miss your daily postings but so happy you all are back to your country and families. All of you be blessed and highly favored.
    Linda Gardner

  17. I am thrilled to learn that your tour has successfully completed, met with your good health and spirit.

    May you and your lovely wife Liisa enjoy a sweet, profound, delightful, intoxicating, comforting and joyful reunion. May your fur kids go wild with sheer joy at your return (please post that video).

    Our country is truly more magnificent for its sons such as you. Our world is more gracious and hopeful thanks to you her finest

    With my unending gratitude and pride, I wish you unremitting blessings and bountiful prosperity to you and yours, forever.

  18. Thank you for your service and your blog. I am a retired Army LTC (Lt Col in AF-speak), and spent some time in Kuwait in 1991. I also have a nephew who is in the GA ARNG unit that you shared some experiences with. He was a company commander, and I learned of your blog from him. I have enjoyed your blog, and the connection that it gave me to him, and to those still serving. I’ll confess that it makes me feel guilty that I am not still serving, but I do appreciate hearing and seeing what is happening on the ground. Thanks again for your window into that world, and God Bless you as you move on to other adventures.

  19. welcome home.

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