One Team... One Fight

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Fraher
  • 509th Mission Support Group
Wow, what a great past 12 months. Exactly one year ago today (30 July 2007) I headed off to lovely Ft. McCoy, Wis. to get ready to start my Combat Skills Training in preparation for my deployment. I was both excited and a bit apprehensive as to what all this was going to entail. 

After arriving in Wisconsin, I met the command element who was taking over the helm of the 732nd Air Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron at Balad Air Base, Iraq. The commander was from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, the First Sergeant and Air Liaison Officer from Langley AFB, Va., and the Deputy Operations Officer from Randolph AFB, Texas. 

I thought "holy cow how is this going to work?" In all, the entire group, 35 personnel of our flight were from 12-15 different bases from across the globe. On top of all this, there were an additional 55 intelligence personnel, also from all over the globe, that compromised our sister flight. I thought "oh my god what did I get into?" 

I don't want to bore you with all the details but the training was outstanding and finally learning how the Army operates wasn't the nightmare I had envisioned. Once you understand the doctrinal differences... and accept them, it is really easy to get along with them. This same philosophy would come in handy later down the road in Iraq.
We finished training Aug. 31 and the commander and I headed to AFCENT (Shaw) for an additional two days of indoctrination. Then after 30 days back at Whiteman we finally departed for Iraq Oct. 5. The flight took about 18 hours and two different aircraft to get to Balad, but it wasn't too bad. 

After getting settled down it was time to get to work. I hit the ground running and slammed into, what I thought at the time, was an immovable wall. It wasn't a wall... it was a stovepiped mindset. 

Once I learned how to get around and who was who, I was able to get down to business. Within three weeks I was at a base outside of Samarra getting ready to go on an eight and a half hour mission with one of our weapons intelligence teams. What I experienced was amazing, but the most important part was not improvised explosive devices not blowing up or witnessing a pretty good fight, it was what I saw among the team members. 

This particular team was headed up by an Air Force Tech. Sgt., and two Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal techs. What really impressed me was they worked so well as a team you couldn't tell what service they were from (plus they all wore the same Desert Flight Suits), and they stayed totally focused on the mission at hand. 

This particular mission was in direct support of an Army Search and Destroy team. So here we have an Air Force Tech. Sgt. and two Navy Petty Officers working to help the Army and it went off like clockwork. Why? Because of the collective focus to accomplish the mission. Americans protecting America and protecting each other. 

Another time I was on a convoy with my counterpart, the Army Command Sgt. Maj. for the 20th Combat Engineer Brigade (Heavy), and we stopped in Fallujah overnight. He and his crew went their way and I took off walking in a virtual sea of Marines to go and find another of my WIT teams. I decided to stop and smoke a cigarette and when I looked up, I saw an Airman 1st Class walking briskly down the sidewalk. 

I immediately yelled, "Hey Airman" and he stopped dead in his tracks and spotted me. I had to go and say hello as I felt a little out of place amongst a couple of thousand Marines. 

I asked him what he was doing at Fallujah; he told me he was Intel and he and one other Airman were working with the Joint S-2. I asked him if there were other Air Force personnel here and he replied as far as he knew, no. 

After some light banter and asking each other what we both did, I asked him where he was stationed. He replied, proudly I might add, Whiteman AFB, Mo. I told him I was stationed there also and we quickly bonded. I asked myself later what were the odds of me meeting a Team Whiteman Airman in Iraq amongst a sea of Marines. 

Guess it was just meant to be. In the short time we talked I was once again made to feel so proud because he was such an incredibly professional Airmen, on his own with only one other Airman, was happy with what he was doing, and telling me how proud he was to be working this job. 

I then asked him how it was working for Marines. He said it was great as they treated him with respect and everyone worked together to take care of business. After a while we said goodbye and he went his way and I went mine. I would later read about this outstanding Airman on Air Force Link, in the base papers here at Whiteman and at Balad. 

This is just one of a hundred or so examples that I saw during the six-plus months I traveled all over Iraq. Our Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines that live and work every day outside the confines of Forward Operating Bases don't really care what service you are from or what you do. They have to rely on each other to take care of each other. As this transformation happens they truly blend into a formidable fighting machine. Yes there will always be a little competition among the services, but it all goes away when they are going into harm's way. 

The point I am trying to convey is that sometimes we all get caught up in what we do every day and maybe we lose a little focus of why we wear this uniform. I know I do sometimes, but then I think of all the amazing people I met on this deployment and it brings reality back with a bang. To be able to use our resources effectively to achieve a collective focus is evident every time we are challenged with a crisis, but as soon as the crisis passes we seem to get back into a singular mode of operation. 

And here at Whiteman we are not just four groups, we are the 509th Bomb Wing. We are not just Air Force. We are the American military. We are Americans fighting multiple wars all over the world every day and kicking some serious butt. 

I want to thank each and every one of you for all you do, and for all you will do to keep America safe. Singularly we are strong, collectively we are invincible. Our future and our children's future depends on, "One Team One Fight."