FORWARD OPERATING BASE DWYER, Afghanistan – --
September 23 marked a historical moment here when a C-17 “Globemaster III” touched down on the flight line carrying more than a dozen pallets of supplies.
The C-17 landing was significant for all of the forces in Helmand province as it became the first aircraft of its kind to land aboard the Forward Operating Base and broke down a critical logistical barrier for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) and other tenant units here.
After six months of blood, sweat and dedication, the United States Air Force Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer Detachment, more commonly referred to as RED HORSE, advanced the runway in leaps and bounds, evolving Dwyer’s ability to support Afghan National Security and International Security Assistance Forces in the region.
“About two years ago, all that was here was a British FOB of maybe 50 guys,” said Air Force Capt. Oliver Barfield, commanding officer of the 809th RED HORSE detachment here. “About nine months ago we started on the runway. The last rotation did all of the heavy earthwork, and this rotation basically did all of the paving for the last six months around the clock.”
According to leadership here, RED HORSE’s hard work opened a floodgate for supply and troop movement into and out of the region.
“Today we flew in 15 pallets of cargo from Bastion Airfield,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Davies, the Marine Air Ground Task Force deployment logistics and operations officer in charge, I Marine Expeditionary Force. “If you max a C-17 at 18 pallets, you triple the capability of cargo pallets of a C-130.”
Now, the FOB is a built-up vital asset for ISAF capable of trafficking one of the largest aircraft in the world. Previously the KC-130 J “Hercules” was the largest cargo plane able to use the runway.
The Hercules is only capable of transporting a small portion of the cargo and personnel the Globemaster III can haul. The ability to host the C-17 will allow FOB Dwyer to bring in bigger loads in less time. This will leave the KC-130’s of 3rd MAW (Fwd) free to support other ongoing operations throughout the country.
Extending the capacity of Dwyer’s flight line to facilitate the C-17 means more than just the ability to move more troops and cargo. It may also contribute to saving lives in the future.
“Now we’ve opened up logistical channels in southern Helmand,” said Barfield, a Luther, Mont., native. “Now we’ve got direct access for the Air Force to drop off logistical supplies. Also, now you can have [medical evacuations] coming straight from here to Landstuhl versus having to stop at Bastion first.”
Though this was one large step for FOB Dwyer, it is not the last. It will continue to thrive and grow in strength and abilities as a new rotation of RED HORSE airmen arrive to take on new and challenging projects.
As for those who dedicated their last six months to the Dwyer runway, the very same C-17 which landed here also loaded the majority of airmen who worked so hard to make its landing possible for their long awaited return to the United States.
It was a symbolic ending to their efforts here as they end their tour in Afghanistan.