AIR FORCE RESERVE MAJOR SETS UP FIRST COMBAT PERSCO TEAM AT BAGRAM

Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station N.Y. -- Major Ken Lute, 914th MSF Commander, recently returned from a three month deployment to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Prior to deploying, Major Lute received 3 ½ weeks of combat skills training at Fort Carson, Colorado. The training included convoy operations, combat lifesaver, and a country and culture orientation.

Major Lute volunteered for this deployment in February of 2006, and was originally told that he would be serving with the Army as an Air Force Liaison Officer. However, requirements changed and when he arrived in country he found himself attached to the 755th Expeditionary Mission Support Group.

The 755th EMSG was activated during a ceremony at Bagram Airfield on Jan. 17th, 2006, with the mission to provide oversight for Airmen who are serving in redevelopment positions throughout the country. "It was our job to provide a bridge between deployed Airmen and their home units for all personnel issues," said Major Lute.

Major Lute's first order of duty was to stand up the first combat PERSCO (personnel support for contingency operations) team and commander's support staff for the headquarters. The primary purpose of PERSCO is accountability of deployed Air Force personnel. Accountability includes accounting for personnel at a deployed site, tracking personnel projected to arrive or depart, updating duty status, completing casualty reporting on personnel deaths, injuries, or illnesses, reporting shortfalls, no-shows, etc. PERSCO also ensures that MPFs back home are taking care of their deployed Airmen. It is essential that personnel actions such as promotions, enlistments, decorations, EPRs, OPRs, etc. continue during an Airman's deployment. When Major Lute's team first arrived at Bagram, only a few hundred personnel were accounted for. By the time he left, Lute and his team had accounted for over 600 personnel.

In order to ensure accountability, it was necessary for Major Lute and his team to conduct external site visits. This meant convoying in Toyota Land Cruisers to other locations. "The convoy missions were one of the more interesting missions that we performed" said the Major. Although a bit apprehensive on his first convoy mission, on subsequent missions he was able to appreciate the interesting landscape, people, and most of all the kids who would approach the convoys, wave, smile and give the thumbs up sign. During the site visits, in addition to speaking with Airmen, Major Lute found it very interesting to be able to speak with Afghan National Army members and locals who worked at the bases.

By the end of his tour, the temperatures were in the high 90s and the climate was very dry. It only rained for 10 minutes during his entire stay. Major Lute was present during the "100 days of wind," an interesting phenomenon where the winds would start around 2 p.m. and continue throughout the day, eventually dying down sometime during the night.

The food was excellent and was contracted through KBR, a U.S. company. There was plenty of food along with a wide selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. Major Lute's favorite meal was Friday night steak & lobster. "I never thought the food would be that good, and fully expected to be eating my share of MREs," said the Major.

Fortunately his tour ended uneventful. The same could not be said for others. "My least favorite experience was attending the fallen comrade ceremonies, which I did six times," said Major Lute.