From the Frontlines: Senior Airman Kenny Holston

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -Senior Airman Kenny Holston, 205th Coalition Mentoring Team public affairs, documents weapons training and familiarization at Tarnak Weapons firing range, Jan. 21, 2010, Kandahar, Afghanistan.  Airman Holston is currently deployed from the 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs Office. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt.  Julie Avey)(Released)

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -Senior Airman Kenny Holston, 205th Coalition Mentoring Team public affairs, documents weapons training and familiarization at Tarnak Weapons firing range, Jan. 21, 2010, Kandahar, Afghanistan. Airman Holston is currently deployed from the 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs Office. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Julie Avey)(Released)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- He shrugs on his armor and readies his weapon, preparing for a mission outside the wire. As the troops move out, M4s at low-ready, Senior Airman Kenny Holston, 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs photographer, is already shooting.

Deployed to Forward Operating Base Lindsey, Kandahar, Afghanistan, Airman Holston works closely with Army, Marines, and Afghan National Army soldiers, as a member of the 205th Coalition Mentoring Team public affairs.

This team is responsible for training and advising the Afghan Army on public affairs related issues, helping them establish the credibility of the local government . It is one of a variety of U.S. military embedded teams who build capability within the Afghan forces as they operate with less and less U.S. military supervision.

"My mission here is to mentor Afghan National Army soldiers, teach them how to perform Public Affairs tasks such as taking photos, writing stories, and putting together video products," Airman Holston said. "I also document combat operations taking place here in Southern Afghanistan."

Airman Holston said his deployment is quite a switch from photographing promotion ceremonies and quarterly award banquets while stateside. He described one of the moments that stood out to him in his deployment thus far:

"The impactful moment for me here was the first time we got shot at during a dismounted patrol," He said. "That's when I realized that it is truly life or death for a lot of our troops serving here. That's when the war came alive to me."

Despite the danger and less-than-posh living conditions the servicemembers in Afghanistan endure, Airman Holston focuses on the importance of his mission.

"Teaching the ANA and helping them become proficient in performing PA tasks will allow them to eventually be able to conduct PA missions on their own," he said. "That is what every branch of service is striving for right now."

The common goal of the combined services has bridged the gap between the services, whether U.S. or Afghan.

"The best part of my deployment has been rolling with our Army and Marine forces, and watching how they work together with Coalition forces to accomplish their missions," he said. "It has been amazing to see the troops band together and sacrifice everything to obtain mission success."

In the short time he has been in Afghanistan, Airman Holston has learned enough to offer advice to those about to venture to the desert.

"My advice is simple: Keep your mouth shut and your eyes and ears open, make your peace with whatever god you might pray to, and be ready for whatever comes your way," he said.

Airman Holston's experiences in Kandahar have given him a better understanding of the contingencies America is involved in and the impact the efforts of the Coalition are making in the middle east.

"I want to give a big thanks to all the brave men and women who are serving and have served out here," he said. "Deployments such as these aren't easy, especially for those who have wives, husbands, and children at home. Thank you to everyone that is making or has made the sacrifice to come out here and do their part."