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Afghanistan combat missions change daily

Command Pilot Maj. Jeff Wong, 109th Airlift Squadron, 133rd Airlift Wing, briefs air crew as they approach their first destination in Herat to transport top U.S. Army and Afghan military leaders to Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday, Dec. 1, 2008.

Command Pilot Maj. Jeff Wong, 109th Airlift Squadron, 133rd Airlift Wing, briefs air crew as they approach their first destination in Herat to transport top U.S. Army and Afghan military leaders to Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday, Dec. 1, 2008.

Command Pilot Maj. Jeff Wong and his crew flew to three regions in Afghanistan during their first combat mission in theater Monday, Dec. 1, 2008. The map displays the four stops the crew made within a 12-hour work day. The Minnesota air crew transported pallets of supplies approximately 100 personnel.

Command Pilot Maj. Jeff Wong and his crew flew to three regions in Afghanistan during their first combat mission in theater Monday, Dec. 1, 2008. The map displays the four stops the crew made within a 12-hour work day. The Minnesota air crew transported pallets of supplies approximately 100 personnel.

Command Pilot, Maj. Jeff Wong (left) and Co-Pilot, 1st Lt. Jason Christensen (right), with the 109th Airlift Squadron, 133rd Airlift Wing, fly a C-130 Hercules aircraft on their first mission in country to transport top U.S. Army and Afghan military leaders from a military airbase in Herat, Afghanistan to Kabul on Monday, Dec. 1, 2008.

Command Pilot, Maj. Jeff Wong (left) and Co-Pilot, 1st Lt. Jason Christensen (right), with the 109th Airlift Squadron, 133rd Airlift Wing, fly a C-130 Hercules aircraft on their first mission in country to transport top U.S. Army and Afghan military leaders from a military airbase in Herat, Afghanistan to Kabul on Monday, Dec. 1, 2008.

Master Sgt. Josh Meister, Loadmaster with the 109th Airlift Squadron, 133rd Airlift Wing, stands on the ground near the rear of the aircraft to guide C-130 Hercules pilots into position at a military airbase in Herat, Afghanistan Monday, Dec. 1, 2008.

Master Sgt. Josh Meister, Loadmaster with the 109th Airlift Squadron, 133rd Airlift Wing, stands on the ground near the rear of the aircraft to guide C-130 Hercules pilots into position at a military airbase in Herat, Afghanistan Monday, Dec. 1, 2008.

Tech. Sgt. Jason Weber, Loadmaster with the 109th Airlift Squadron, 133rd Airlift Wing, peers out the rear of the C-130 Hercules aircraft while flying to Herat, Afghanistan to keep watch for any threats and is prepared to release flares if needed Monday, Dec. 1, 2008.

Tech. Sgt. Jason Weber, Loadmaster with the 109th Airlift Squadron, 133rd Airlift Wing, peers out the rear of the C-130 Hercules aircraft while flying to Herat, Afghanistan to keep watch for any threats and is prepared to release flares if needed Monday, Dec. 1, 2008.

Loadmasters Master Sgt. Josh Meister and Tech. Sgt. Jason Weber, both with the 109th Airlift Squadron, 133rd Airlift Wing, see mountainous terrain in Afghanistan while scanning for threats on the way to Herat, Afghanistan Monday Dec. 1, 2008.

Loadmasters Master Sgt. Josh Meister and Tech. Sgt. Jason Weber, both with the 109th Airlift Squadron, 133rd Airlift Wing, see mountainous terrain in Afghanistan while scanning for threats on the way to Herat, Afghanistan Monday Dec. 1, 2008.

Master Sgt. Josh Meister, loadmaster with the 109th Airlift Squadron, 133rd Airlift Wing, peers out the rear of the C-130 Hercules aircraft while flying to Herat, Afghanistan to keep watch for any threats Monday, Dec. 1, 2008.

Master Sgt. Josh Meister, loadmaster with the 109th Airlift Squadron, 133rd Airlift Wing, peers out the rear of the C-130 Hercules aircraft while flying to Herat, Afghanistan to keep watch for any threats Monday, Dec. 1, 2008.

Co-Pilot Lt. Jason Christensen, prepares night vision goggles before landing at Camp Bastian, Kandahar Airfield, southern Afghanistan to transport nearly 50 Marines to Bagram, Airbase so they can return home Monday, Dec. 1, 2008.

Co-Pilot Lt. Jason Christensen, prepares night vision goggles before landing at Camp Bastian, Kandahar Airfield, southern Afghanistan to transport nearly 50 Marines to Bagram, Airbase so they can return home Monday, Dec. 1, 2008.

BAGRAM, Afghanistan --

From aircraft mechanics to the flight crew, everyday is a little different for deployed Minnesota Airmen stationed at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.
 
Command pilot, Maj. Jeffrey Wong, 109th Airlift Squadron, and his crew departed for their first combat air-land mission in country Monday, Dec. 1. The first stop was a military base in Herat where they delivered supplies and picked up about 50 Afghanistan and U.S. Army military leaders.
 
On board the C-130 Hercules aircraft was Maj. Gen. Robert Cone, Commander of Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, which trains, equips and fields the Afghan National Security Forces, both the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.
 
"What we are really trying to do is accelerate the development of the Afghan National Security Forces," said Maj. Gen. Cone. "The Afghans today are talking more than half of the fight and what we would like to see is for them to take as much of all of it as quick as we can to get that done."
 
Last year the Afghan National Army grew by 26,000 Soldiers and next year it's expected to expand by 28,000. The U.S. military has been training the Afghan National Army for five years, but training the police for only one year.
 
Senior leaders gather every six months to continue strategizing security progression. Maj. Gen. Cone explained that the leadership team recognizes the changing situation in Iraq and with that it should give the military the resources needed to help the Afghans take over quicker than anticipated.
 
Soon after Maj. Gen. Cone and his team were transported to Kabul, Afghanistan, the 133rd Airlift Wing crew headed to Camp Bastian, Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan to pick up nearly 50 Marines after they served in the field for eight months.
This mission was the first combat mission in Afghanistan for Tech. Sgt. Jason Weber, a loadmaster in the 109th Airlift Squadron.
 
"It's rewarding doing a job that I trained for," said Tech. Sgt. Weber. "It was nice to work with a crew today that has done this before; they were very helpful and instructional."
Tech. Sgt. Weber worked with Master Sgt. Josh Meister, also a loadmaster with the 109th Airlift Squadron, on their first mission. Both loadmasters were positioned in the rear of the aircraft watching for threats and were prepared to release flares if needed.
 
"We're ready for our next mission," said Tech. Sgt. Weber. "We are prepared for air land, air drop and aeromedical missions."
 
Twelve hours after take off the crew returned safely to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.