Deployed Airmen Paint Tribute to Fallen Comrades


The mural featured here was painted on a set of barrier segments at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in remembrance of the loss of a C-130J crew deployed from the 39th Airlift Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. The six airmen whose names appear on this wall were killed when their aircraft went down in an incident still under investigation on October 2nd of this year near Jalalabad. It served as a grim reminder, renewed last week with the loss of six more airmen just outside Bagram, that no matter what the politicians say, the war is only over in the formal sense. Risk is still being taken in combat conditions and people are still dying.

The airmen posing beneath the mural are those who painted it. They’re members of Bagram’s 455th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and are deployed forward from Dyess. They chose to spend their extremely limited spare time — most are on perpetual 12-hour shifts without down days — to work on this joint project to remember their teammates. They finished the wall about 10 days before Christmas.

This is a manifestation of an exceptionally healthy ops-maintenance relationship at Dyess, something corroborated to me by members of this unit. That in turn says something positive about the leadership at Dyess in its most mission-critical organizations.

That these maintainers chose to honor their fallen aircrew teammates in this way speaks volumes about the character of the units and the individuals who constitute them … and is a poetic expression of the kind of esprit and cohesiveness so elusive in a tired, over-stretched, and hard-bitten Air Force. 

These airmen closed out 2015 by inspiring themselves and each other. What they created will serve to inspire the rest of us, and encourage us to save a thought for those who gave and continue to give their all to preserve our tranquility during this holiday season.

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