By By Sgt. M. Benjamin GableApril 18, 2011
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - When Soldiers of the 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group headquarters element deployed last April, they were prepared to command and control Third Army's airspace in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, they have conducted this mission before.
Three times in fact.
Based at Fort Rucker, Ala., the Army's only active TAOG was tasked to provide Third Army's theatre air-traffic services and command and control of airfield operations battalions from their base at Udairi Army Airfield at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
"Our mission here is unique," said Col. James R. Macklin, Jr., 164th TAOG commander and Third Army's senior aviation commander and a native of Macon, Ga. "It's been a challenge for us to command and control such a large area."
And in the first months of their deployment, the mission became more demanding.
Third Army determined more Soldiers from the TAOG would be necessary for completing the mission at hand. In October, additional Soldiers from the group were deployed from Fort Rucker to fulfill this demand. The TAOG now had more than 400 Soldiers under its command and control.
"It's been a lot of hard work," said Sgt. Mathew Thibodeau, a UH-60 Blackhawk crewmember with Company A, 3rd Regiment, 126th General Support Aviation Battalion and a native of Mashpee, Mass. "But we worked well together and put in 100 percent through it all."
During their deployment, TAOG Soldiers oversaw thousands of flights, both helicopter and fixed wing, performed over-water missions and trained personnel responsible for over 250 aircraft from two combat aviation brigades and three Marine expeditionary units safely.
And that was just in Kuwait.
The TAOG also helped streamline medical evacuations for southern Iraq. They also provided air traffic control evaluators to train both U.S. Army and Department of the Army contractor air traffic controllers, enhancing the operational capability of airfields throughout Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The TAOG Soldiers are proud of the work they have done supporting Third Army.
"I can't say enough about these Soldiers," said Macklin. "Their hard work and dedication made this mission possible."
With their year-long deployment winding down, the TAOG Soldiers are ensuring the incoming unit is trained properly while looking forward to seeing their loved ones back home.
"We are making sure they are ready for anything Third Army may ask of them," said Thibodeau. "It was a great year but I'm excited to see my Family again."