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NEWS | June 13, 2014

Another milestone reached ... many more to come!

By Lt. Col. Matt Leard 437th Operations Support Squadron commander and recently the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron co

Whether simple distance markers on a long road trip, events along our career path or significant operational accomplishments, I've always found milestones particularly useful. Milestones help gauge the progress we have achieved, while potentially indicating the distance that remains. This week Joint Base Charleston achieved a historical milestone.

Last Sunday, June 15, the 14th Airlift Squadron landed back in Charleston from its deployment, and for the first time in nearly a decade all of Joint Base Charleston's airlift squadrons were home at the same time. This marks a significant milestone along a journey that began shortly after the attacks on 9/11, and ending sometime in the future, after we fly our last combat mission in Afghanistan.

Putting this milestone in perspective requires a review of the journey to date. Since late 2001, Charleston tail flashes and crews have operated non-stop in the skies and frontlines of Afghanistan. As the size of the operations grew, the insatiable appetite for the C-17's unique capabilities exploded. In 2006, a group of Charleston and McChord squadron commanders came together and created a new deployment model known as the Two Expeditionary Airlift Squadron concept. This construct required the forward deployment of two C-17 squadron's worth of capability, more than enough to quench the appetite for combat airlift. The Two EAS construct, and Joint Base Charleston's airlift squadrons, successfully supported the largest of demands, including the Iraq surge of 2007, the Afghanistan surge of 2010 and the subsequent drawdown of both operations. While there have been incremental changes over the years, a JB Charleston airlift squadron has been continuously deployed supporting the two EAS construct ... untill now.

For the thousands of crew members that have spent the last decade of their lives operating within this system, and the families that have always faithfully gathered to welcome them home, enjoy this milestone. It marks the end of a model that sustained two major operations at their peaks and means for this brief period of time the 437th Operations Group is whole once again.

Milestones are also occasions to consider the journey still to come. As we enjoy this historical homecoming, we shouldn't be fooled into thinking the pace of operations or our tasking levels will wane. Though no longer continuously deployed, we remain a strategic asset capable of conducting operations anywhere in the world. Our crews will continue to support the current timeline for the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan, while remaining the nation's 9-1-1 reaction force. Indeed, as I type this commentary our crews are eagerly preparing to support a number of emerging contingencies. Quite simply, the capability we provide will remain an incredibly sought after and valuable commodity.

Like the hundreds of campaigns that came before, this one too will end. We should absolutely celebrate this Joint Base Charleston milestone for the decade of hard work and progress it represents. However, this is not an opportunity to rest ... for many more milestones lie ahead.