Beyond the numbers

  • Published
  • By Col. Mark Kelly
  • 4th Fighter Wing commander
Combat is the ultimate team competition. The outcome for second place isn't the loss of a shiny trophy, a parade or Super Bowl ring. Combat consequences are literally measured in life and death.

The 4th Fighter Wing Airmen fight as well as anyone I've seen.

The team can't rest and operate unless our security forces Defenders secure the wire. Logisticians supply our team with all the food, fuel, equipment and weaponry needed for the fight. Our engineers repair old infrastructure inside and outside the wire. Our communications Airmen manage countless secure phone, Internet and satellite lines into the combat zone. Force support Airmen keep track of too few beds for too many warfighters. The fighting season for our support group Airmen is year-round.

The fighting season for our maintenance and operations groups was the eight months from May 2009 to Jan 2010. Eighteen F-15Es deployed to Afghanistan without utilizing a single air or ground spare. Zero jets stranded enroute. More than 4,000 sorties and more than 16,000 combat hours with a record number of 20mm bullets expended. There was record number of -220 engines repaired and shipped from Seymour Johnson. All came home on time.

A fight well fought by anyone's standard.

There's a story beyond the numbers as well. Babies born with 4th FW members deployed. Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays missed. High performance comes at a high cost.

On Oct. 3, Al Qaeda and Taliban forces attempted to overrun Coalition Observation Post Keating at Kamdesh, Afghanistan, in Nuristan Province. Six 4th FW F-15Es, along with one B-1B and four A-10s covered COP Keating for more than nine hours.

Dozens of bombs built by the 4th Equipment Maintenance Squadron and loaded by aircraft maintenance Airmen functioned perfectly. Hundreds of 20mm rounds fired and flew perfectly. The component maintenance squadron's engines, avionics and sensors worked perfectly.

Scores of enemy killed and coalition lives saved. Eight U.S. Soldiers were lost. COP Keating's injured were medically evacuated to our warrior medics waiting at Bagram Airfield.

This was one event, during one day of eight months of continuous combat.

There's still a story beyond the numbers.

COP Keating's surviving defenders will return home because they were trained well, because they fought well, and because they were lucky to have 4th FW Airmen in the fight. They'll enjoy children's birthdays, holidays and anniversaries for years to come.