KABUL, Afghanistan -- A quick and efficient response by Afghan and U.S. Air Force security forces personnel helped defeat an attack by insurgents at Kabul International Airport recently, according to U.S. military officials.
The attack began at about 4:30 a.m. on the morning of June 10. Within minutes, security forces members, or "defenders", from the 439th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron were in place and ready to defend the NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan compound on the north side of the airport. As the first explosions and sounds of small arms fire could be heard in the neighboring State Department complex, the security forces team rushed to man towers and start taking control of the situation. The team would remain in these defensive fighting positions as the three and a half hour long firefight continued throughout the morning.
"Once I heard the small arms fire I knew it was serious and just sprung out of bed and got ready in about a minute; no socks and no underwear. I didn't even tie my boots," said Airmen 1st Class Gregory Smith, 439 AEAS security forces deployed from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. "We knew exactly where to go and what to do. We've trained for this. We knew which tower was our post and just ran to our towers." While Smith and others ran towards the lookout towers around the compound, Airmen 1st Class Melissa Bradley, a Base Defense Operations Center desk sergeant deployed from Keesler AFB, Miss., got dressed, was in full gear within three minutes of the first explosions and on her way to the BDOC. "We acted as the command and control for the whole situation," said Bradley about the BDOC. "Not only did we talk to all the agencies that were part of the situation but I was also in charge of sending people out to the towers and knowing where everyone was at all times. Same with the units that went outside the compound; I had to know what they were doing and where they were going at all times." Later, Bradley received a call from the State Department requesting ammo and weapons resupply. Bradley immediately sent the request up through her chain of command. The resupply team, under small arms fire as well a nearby explosion, successfully delivered munitions and weapons to help defeat the attack. Capt. Michael Morriss, 439 AEAS security forces officer-in-charge, stated that the team could feel the concussions from the attack. Not only was the defense of the compound and the resupply mission a success for the members of the 439 AEAS security forces team, but being able to watch their Afghan Air Force counterparts in action proved a different kind of success as well. "As advisors, it made us all proud that day to be able to watch all of our hard work and dedication to Afghanistan come together," said Morriss. "This is why we're here, to help train the Afghan Air Force to respond to an event such as this and come out successful. To be able to see their response and reaction unfold in person was inspiring. They did exactly what needed to be done under the circumstances and I couldn't be more proud." Morriss, along with six other defenders and his interpreter, left the compound during the attack to link up with the Kabul Air Wing Security Forces Kandak commander who was running command and control on-scene. This face-to-face interaction allowed Morriss as well as the kandak commander to liaise between all the necessary agencies in order to take control of the situation. "We're very thankful for the training that the advisors have provided the Soldiers," said Lt. Col. Shir Mohammed, the Kabul Air Wing Security Forces Kandak commander, who coordinated the response to the attack. "They were excited to take this opportunity to use it, in a real environment. The soldiers are doing well and are in good spirits." As the AAF security forces members took command and control on-scene, Smith continued to hold his defensive position in tower four as it received grazing fire. Smith, along with two other security forces Airmen, said they could hear the sound of bullets as they snapped past them in the tower. "It takes extreme courage to rise up above your internal fears as a human being and go out there and man a post you could potentially be shot at without hesitation or question," said Master Sgt. Richard Blackstone, 439 AEAS security forces superintendent. "They collectively did exactly what needed to be done to take on the bad guys." At the end of the ordeal, it was a team effort that sustained the safety and security of both the compound and the people inside it. "I was really proud of security forces," said Bradley. "There are a lot of new people on their first deployment and not once did I see anyone panicking or not know what they're doing. There wasn't any chaos and we were able to focus on helping the State Department." And with the Afghan National Security Forces continually taking over more and more responsibility in the country, security has become a high priority for the various services. "Force protection is our top priority with the Afghan Air Force," stated Brig. Gen. Steve Shepro, NATC-A commander. "Our security forces together invest much time and sweat to counter all possible threats, and consequently responded superbly against this last attack, as expected."