JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --
Ten Alaska Air National Guardsmen assigned to the 176th Security Forces Squadron returned home from Kandahar, Afghanistan, shortly after midnight this morning at Ted Stevens’ Anchorage International Airport.
A total of 12 Air Guardsmen deployed to Kandahar to support Operation Freedom Sentinel, a NATO-led continuation of the Global War on Terrorism. The unit’s primary mission was airbase defense. Two of the 12 airmen arrived safely back in Alaska two weeks prior.
“Being back, it hasn’t really sunk in yet, but I’m thankful to be home,” said Master Sgt. Gary Keller, team leader for the 176th SFS deployed personnel.
The Air Guard security force officers began their journey at Fort Bliss, Texas, last October. There, they underwent sustainment training, or “tier” training, a four-tiered enterprise-wide policy, process and construct that provides training programs designed to prepare Airmen for expeditionary missions outside the confines of the traditional airbase environment. The training allowed the Airmen to gain additional competence and confidence in combat skills that they don't often implement in their normal duties.
The deployment was set to last six months, but due to COVID-19 pandemic precautions, the Airmen were extended an additional two. With a month and a half remaining on the deployment, a no-movement order was initiated that prompted a delay in returning home.
While in Afghanistan for eight months, the Airmen withstood and reacted to multiple rocket barrages, one of which triggered an airfield clearing on the Kandahar Army Airfield, where the unit was stationed. The unit successfully executed the clearing while suffering no casualties or extenuating injuries.
“In our line of work, if nothing escalates, we’ve had a good day out there,” said Maj. James Truesdell, the commander of the 176th SFS, who assisted the unit administratively stateside. “Our goal is to mitigate security breaches and acts of aggression against our NATO forces.”