Air Force colonel explains Afghanistan task

December 9, 2009 10:14:22 AM PST
With the president's announcement of a troop increase in Afghanistan, military units in Northern California are awaiting orders. They include a specialized unit out of Travis Air Force Base that just returned from Afghanistan.

This unit is considered the 911 responders of the American military. It is a small unit from Travis Air Force Base that is sent to the front lines with just a few hours notice, to set up a working airfield in a matter of weeks.

Col. Quintin Hartt is one of the commanders from the 615th Contingency Response Wing who oversaw the wing's operations in Afghanistan.

"We had over 100 people from our wing that went out and established immediate airfield operations. That's the ability to move an air flow through a location," said Col. Hartt. "It's probably one of the most rugged, rural and undeveloped locations I've ever experienced in my over 24 years in the Air Force."

The same unit has been deployed here in the United States, to help in the wake of a disaster like Hurricane Katrina. But unlike Katrina, in Afghanistan the 615th had to complete their mission while continually under attack from a hostile enemy.

"Mortars and rockets would come in," said Col. Hartt.

Despite the danger, in about 60 days, the 100 airmen of the 615th established two of the most forward-operating bases in western Afghanistan.

"We have the maintenance, aerial port, operations, security forces, air traffic control, intelligence, contracting, finance, everything to establish initial operations, until such time as more permanent forces can come 30, 60, 90 days later," said Col. Hartt.

At this point, the 615th doesn't know what role if any they'll play in the president's new strategy in Afghanistan, but if called upon, they'll be ready to go within 12 hours.


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