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A small group of Air Guardsmen were joined by senior leaders June 18 to celebrate the completion of their deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and to honor the deactivation of the 702nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron here.
The 702nd EAS was activated here July 31, 2011, and charged to operate the C-27J Spartan in direct support of U.S. Army missions in the Regional Command - South area of operations.
During this rotation, the majority of the Airmen from 702nd EAS were from the Maryland Air National Guard. This deployment marked their third rotation to Afghanistan in five years.
The squadron deactivated after flying 3,200 missions, moving 1,400 tons of cargo, transporting 25,000 passengers and executing 71 airdrops, officials said. The achievements are even more impressive since the squadron operated only two aircraft.
"Persistent powerful presence-that's the mission of the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing, and the 702nd (EAS) has lived up to that statement in every respect," said Col. Robert Kiebler, the 451st Expeditionary Operations Group commander.
As the 702nd EAS becomes a part of history, the support provided to time-critical tactical airlift will not go with it.
"We will continue to provide world-class tactical airlift in support of operations in Regional Command - South," said Kiebler.
The U.S. Army 25th Combat Aviation Brigade served as the link for the 702nd EAS to the Army while it conducted operations in Afghanistan. The squadron flew missions that were directed and scheduled by the brigade.
The 25th CAB commander praised the departing Air Guardsmen for adopting his unit's motto, "We fly for the troops," during the deactivation ceremony.
"It emphasizes to every Soldier, and now every Airman, that has been in our formation that it's not about us," said Army Col. Frank W. Tate, the 25th CAB commander. "It's not about what is convenient for us. It is about what we can do to take care of that Soldier, Marine, Airman or Sailor on the ground. They are the ones who carry that heavy burden; they are the ones with the most significant challenges."
Supporting the warfighter was a constant focus of the squadron in its 10 months of operation. The squadron prided itself in providing rapid response in support of the mission.
"We had folks bring in boxes of blood (to the squadron), with crews already at the plane," said Lt. Col Michael Lunt, the 702nd EAS commander. "We walked it out to the aircraft, and it went out the door to Tarin Kowt.
"You can't find a better mission than tactical airlift," Lunt said.
A clear sense of accomplishment prevailed among the unit and leadership.
"This rotation has been for me, and the men and women of the Maryland, Ohio, Georgia, Mississippi, North Dakota and Arkansas Air National Guard, a very challenging, but, in many ways for us, the most rewarding rotation we've been on," Lunt said.
"We feel like we've made a difference for the young troops on the tip of the spear."