Story by SSgt Ariel Partlow on 07/03/2019The Train Advise Assist Air Command-Air, 438th Air Expeditionary Wing, is comprised of 13 NATO nations with a mission to train, advise and assist Afghan partners to develop a professional, capable and sustainable Afghan Air Force.
The career fields TAAC-Air advises range from logistics and personnel to pilot training and maintenance.
Master Sgt. Francis J. Gilson V, Master Sgt. Mark Wagner and Tech. Sgt. Steven Sanchez, maintainers from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, are currently executing that mission under the 442nd Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron in Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan.
For 365 days, these three airmen are focusing their time on building relationships and working "shona-ba-shona" (shoulder-to-shoulder) with their Afghan counterparts in personnel management, and aircraft structural and intermediate maintenance.
"We have a great work dynamic and high morale because we are continuously building stronger relationships with each other, our coalition partners and our Afghan counterparts," said Wagner, IMS squadron commander advisor.
Air advisors work closely with their Afghan Air Force counterparts in support of their operations across the country. "We treat our Afghan partners like family because we're here for the same goal: to provide for a better Afghan community and Afghan nation," said Gilson. "We share our skills and expertise with them to help them support themselves toward the freedom we feel.
"Working hand-in-hand with my Afghan counterparts and building that relationship has been no different than meeting a new person or new crew coming from another base," said Sanchez. "You have to learn personalities and work ethics, and once we all integrate with each other and get to know your team it's a beautiful thing."
Building these relationships is a vital part of air advising, because each individual advisor is an ambassador to our nations.
"I'm very proud and I feel it every day when I step out into the flightline and see operations. They say it's blood, sweat and tears' but it's actual advising and time that you've invested. To see these guys perform on their own and take what you're teaching them with the initiative to get it done is a great thing to see," said Sanchez.
While all three describe their experience in Afghanistan as momentous, they admit they miss their families and are excited to reunite.
"We did this for us, our families, and our nation," said Sanchez. "I'd do it over and over again in a heartbeat."