BAGRAM AIR FIELD, AFGHANISTAN
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan -- They trace their heritage back to the famous Flying Tigers of World War II's war-torn China. In homage to the storied Airmen of the past, the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., still has the iconic sharks face painted on the front of their A-10 Thunderbolt II's, lovingly nicknamed the "Warthog."
The Warthog's mission is to provide close-air-support and precision engagement missions throughout Afghanistan on a daily basis in support of coalition ground forces.
But, before the pilots ever get in the Warthog, it's the 74th Aircraft Maintenance Unit that gets the aircraft airborne. There has not been a single day in the deployment of the 74th EFS that squadron didn't have at least two aircraft airborne providing support to their warrior counterparts on the ground.
"Just like the Airmen that defended China in World War II, the 74th AMU is often short on resources, maintain aging aircraft and must make do with what they can," said Capt. James Schieser, Officer-in-Charge, 74th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit. "The strong leadership, dedication and perseverance of our non-commissioned officers, senior non-commissioned officers and officer corps, are what ensure every aircraft is fully mission-capable. The maintainers of the 74th AMU understand, with the Flying Tiger legacy they inherited, failure is not an option."
To date, the Flying Tigers have broken records by flying upwards of 12,000 mission hours, expending more than 100 tons of ordinance in the CAS mission since arriving in Feb. 2009. However, many times all it took was a show of force to end an engagement.
"We seek to avoid civilian casualties in all our operations - period," said Senior Master Sgt. Victor Castillo, 74th AMU Weapons Section Superintendent. "We have a variety of methods we use including loading of precision guided munitions, monthly updates of aircraft digital maps, and daily maintenance of our targeting systems to ensure the safety of innocent civilians on the ground."
But when enemy combatants don't flee after a show of force, the Warthog can deliver a precise strike to protect coalition ground forces.
Army Spc. Jason Dorsey, Company "C", 178th Infantry, saw firsthand the precision and power of the Warthog.
"The A-10s were a valuable asset to us on ground missions here in Afghanistan," said Dorsey. "Their speed and precise targeting provided great support for us and kept the bad guys' heads down during firefights."
"We have so many soldiers coming in from the field to thank us - it's their stories of desperately needing 'air' and seeing an A-10 flying overhead providing cover for them that kept us energized and motivated," said Senior Master Sgt. Thomas E. Moore, 74th AMU Lead Production Superintendent. "It kept us working hard even when it seemed all we were doing was launching and recovering jets 24/7."
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