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‘Without you, there is no Air Force’

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Carmelo Vega
  • 368th Recruiting Squadron superintendent
I am the recruiting advisor to the Afghan Air Force recruiting commander (an O-6). I am assigned to the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing, which is under the NATO Air Training Command.

Under this command there are 28 coalition partner nations operating from Kabul. I work at a very small base with several Army and Navy personnel, and other nation partners such as Denmark, Canada and Germany.

I fall under the wing J1/J7 (Personnel and Training combined). I go out every day to the Afghan side of the base (leaving the wire) to advise. I have an assigned interpreter and always have to go with a guardian angel.

My scope of responsibility extends from the tactical, operational and strategic (all combined) to help the Afghans stand up a sustainable air force over the years. The recruiting team is starting from scratch and facing several difficulties such as equipment, supplies, training, processes and support.

You can somewhat compare what they are doing here to our Air Force back in 1947 when it switched from the Army Air Corps to an independent entity. I am here to help them with that transition.

I deal with all types of issues, from getting supplies, computers, furniture and other equipment to elevating concerns and suggestions to the Afghan top leadership at the Ministry of Defense level. This requires me to get involved in meetings and interactions at the wing and MOD level with other advisors at that level to ensure the Afghan leadership acknowledges the recruiting team and generates policy to align an effective recruiting program that meets their needs.

During my first month here, I've been able to build solid rapport with the Afghan leadership, get them equipment, get them recognized as a valid entity at various levels and coordinating a recruiting "shura" (meeting). This meeting brought the top Afghan leadership key stakeholders to our base to conduct an AFSO 21 event to identify gaps, inefficiencies and define the processes they need to succeed. I was responsible for organizing and coordinating this event (with wing support, of course). Everyone here was excited about it.

I am thrilled to have taken on this unique opportunity to help the Afghan air force. We are making history. I truly believe deployments are an opportunity to grow both professionally and personally.

Whether my mission here touches one or several hundreds of people, I believe it's one or several hundred that will see we are here to help them build a strong nation with opportunities for everyone.

I have also taken part on operation outreach as an English teacher. This is a volunteer program (both U.S. and Afghans) to teach Afghan NCOs and officers conversational English. We started out with six Afghans and we are up to 21 now. This is a very rewarding effort and a great opportunity to learn from them as much as they learn from you. I teach English and in return learn more Dari. It's a win/win.

My advice to our recruiters - always be ready, physically and mentally. Be ready to deploy. It's your job as an Airman to maintain fitness and be ready when the call comes in. You should be ready to go anywhere, anytime.

Take on challenges and get out of your comfort zone. Appreciate the great opportunity you've been given to sustain the best Air Force in the world. I am seeing it first hand out here.

I work with the finest Airmen our Air Force has to offer and you are a direct contributor to that. Don't think for a second your job is not important. Without you, there is no Air Force, no safe skies and our nation is vulnerable. Be proud of what you do day in and day out.