TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan - The hour was dusk, and
Master Sgt. Russell Dietz, 466th Air Expeditionary Group chaplain
assistant, was off-duty and watching a movie at a forward operating
base in Afghanistan when he heard "incoming, incoming!" He threw on
his helmet and dove for cover. The explosion shook the building and
rattled the windows; it had been so close.
October 5, 2013 - Master Sgt. Russell Dietz is a chaplain's assistant serving with
the 466th Air Expeditionary Group at Transit Center at Manas,
Kyrgyzstan. He is deployed out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson,
Alaska, and is a native of Anchorage, Alaska. (U.S. Air Force photo
by Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett)
When "all clear" was finally announced, Dietz went to see
the damage. There were several people injured and two
soldiers were badly injured. Self-aid and buddy care was
being performed and one of the injured soldiers was
transferred to the hardened medical facility for a blood
As a chaplain assistant assigned 466 AEG
here, it wasn't the first attack Dietz witnessed. The 466
AEG is responsible for joint expeditionary taskings and for the administrative needs of
airmen helping Army missions in theater.
where the chaplain and I come in," said Dietz, who is
deployed out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
"Our positions have been uniquely created to integrate into
the unit and meet airmen who may, at times, require a
chaplain's assistance to assist with personal, professional
or spiritual matters."
While he is deployed to the
Transit Center, the chaplain assistant takes regular trips
to Afghanistan for weeks at a time to seek out the airmen
serving in Army units and raise their morale.
isn't without risks.
"Bagram Air Field [Afghanistan]
had a few attacks," Dietz said. "They had an attack when we
first got there, and two other attacks happened that same
night. I heard the boom but it was quite a ways off. They
were aiming for the flightlines. At Kandahar Airfield
[Afghanistan], our very first trip out, they were hit."
One base they visited had seen enough action that they
were asked to check on the airmen on night shift.
"They'd witnessed a live battle with the Afghanistan
National Army and the Taliban, and the ANA lost and got
dragged off," the chaplain assistant from Anchorage, Alaska,
said. "The ANA has taken a lot of it. Attacks are still
Most of the FOBs they visited had full
flightlines. Others were smaller and required ground
transportation to reach.
"We visited a FOB in
September that was under Taliban attack for hours," Dietz
said. "They haven't had a visit from us since the attack, so
they were surprised to see us. They were grateful and shared
their experience. There're a handful of airmen out there and
they saw battle for hours."
The danger is real, but
the airmen are worth it, he said.
"It feels good to
be part of a team that cares about Air Force members, and I
think they feel good that the Air Force cares about them,"
he said. "They think it's neat that we go out there just for
them, and we are happy to. It's worth it; these airmen are
each valued a lot."
By USAF Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
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