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13,000 soldiers guarantee peace, stability: Colonel Buch
KUWAIT CITY, Nov 21: The stereotype about military life being associated with hardships or difficulties differs from reality and although the nature of military life is totally different from the ordinary life; America makes it sure that the US Air Force members of the 386th Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) at Ali Al-Salem Air Base enjoy a normal life — contrary to the condition in many other countries, reports Al-Qabas daily. Life often looks the same as the one outside the base; where work, study and entertainment are combined.
The base is similar to a small town equipped with restaurants that cater to most tastes, recreational facilities and sports stadiums. At a distance of 39 miles from the Iraqi border, specifically in the northwestern part of Kuwait; the daily’s staff had a date with adventure and suspense in their first field tour in the 386th EAW of the US Air Force at Ali Al-Salem Air Base. During the visit, they met with Public Affairs Chief in the 386th EAW David Salanitri who accompanied them throughout the tour; along with the pilots and Cultural and Information Affairs Counselor at the US Embassy Christy Watkins. The staff’s first stop was at the Military Police Station, where 386th EAW Commander Colonel George Buch briefed them on the role of the AEW at the base; indicating it serves as a gateway for almost all military logistics in the region. He said: “About 140,000 tons of goods are handled here annually. We deliver them to our partners and coalition forces, so that they can continue to defeat any violent extremist organizations trying to destabilize the region.”
Buch affirmed the depth and strength of the strategic partnership between Kuwait and the United States of America; as well as his country’s commitment to protect partners and maintain stability within the region. He stressed that the partnership established at Ali Al-Salem Air Base is continuous and lasting, supported by both countries for many reasons — most notably the collective goal and value regarding stability in the region. “We routinely coordinate military activities with our counterparts in the host country. We also conducted an exchange of experts between the US and Kuwaiti forces to improve technologies to respond to emergencies involving airlines last September,” he added. He pointed out that there are more than 50 ongoing construction projects, which consist of many joint endeavors with Kuwait, such as concrete dormitories.
He stated: “Our continued presence in Kuwait is a sign of our permanent commitment to the region and a reflection of the strength of this partnership; considering the stationing of about 13,000 American soldiers in Kuwait, all of whom support stability and security here.” Asked who claims that the United States dominates the world through its military forces and that its widespread bases are the bases of occupation, Buch asserted: “As commander of the wing at Ali Al-Salem Air Base, I can only talk about the work of the 386th AEW here in Kuwait. I can say that the relationship we share with our Kuwaiti counterparts is one of mutual partnership.
On a daily basis, we seek diplomatic permits, air transit permits and customs clearance to support our operational activities. This is an important aspect of achieving regional security in cooperation with and through our partners,” he confirmed. On a possible Iranian attack in the region and their readiness to confront these threats, he asserted: “It is the policy of the Ministry of Defense not to talk about specific force protection levels, but what I can say is that the senior leadership has stated several times that the United States is committed to protecting our partners and ensuring stability within the region. We reserve the right to protect ourselves and our partners from threats. We are ready to do exactly that, and we are very good at doing that. We train for all potential threats, so that we can continue to protect stability within the region.”
Asked about the claim of Iraqi militias on Ali Al-Salem Air Base being a target and if there were any threats related to them, he confirmed that this base is safe and did not participate in the said attack. “The group that made this claim, which we believe is a proxy group allied with Iran in Iraq, has one goal – to destabilize the region and impose its way of life on others. Regardless of any threats we may receive, the United States is committed to protecting our partners and securing stability within the region,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, 386th EAW Medical Squadron, Clinical Psychologist and Chair of Task Force 99.M Innovation Steering Committee Lieutenant Colonel David Tubman pointed out that “military life is not without challenges. The main problems that our forces are facing here include separation from their families, change of routine, and difference in lifestyle and work environment; in addition to psychological pressure, which may sometimes be a good motivation for them to do a great job and create many innovations.” Tubman cited one of the innovative projects to provide virtual mental health care with the aim of providing psychological and social support to the US forces who come from different cultural backgrounds. He affirmed their keenness to conduct periodic examination and evaluation of the physical, psychological and mental health of the pilots to help them find solutions to their problems and overcome the challenges they are facing.
He went to say, “We have a great opportunity to cooperate with the Kuwaiti Air Force, and there are joint exercises with the Kuwaiti Air Force and Jahra Hospital.” As is the case in all military fields, it requires training at the highest level of accuracy and professionalism for pilots to improve their physical fitness and combat capabilities.
The military dogs operating at Ali Al-Salem Air Base are also trained to know how and where to bite in order to confront any potential hostile element. 386th EAW Security Forces Squadron Kennel Master in Charge of the Military Working Dog Unit Technical Sergeant Daniel Canitz revealed that the military working dog at the base serves various purposes within the area; ranging from tracking, explosive detection, patrol, search and rescue or attack.
Moreover, contrary to the common and customary housing of soldiers and military personnel as being simple and narrow, Ali Al-Salem Air Base provides American forces with fully equipped housing. The pilots described life at the base as “high quality and luxurious,” while all of them feel they are warmly welcomed here. “We currently have over 40 active construction projects at the base — many of which are joint ventures with our hosts in Kuwait,” says 386th EAW Civil Engineering Squadron Construction Projects Manager Second Lieutenant Joshua Werfel.
He added: “These projects move the United States from an exploratory presence to a permanent presence with fortified buildings that will stand the test of time. Our goal is that every project implemented enhances our ability to promote peace and stability in the Gulf region.” Also, no one could imagine how difficult it is to deal with death to save the lives of others; knowing that the first mistake could be the last. This is how the explosives and mines officers – men and women – deal with explosive materials and bombs. 386th EAW Civil Engineering Squadron Explosive Ordinance Disposal Flight Commander Captain Ana Smith said: “Women work alongside men against mines without any fear or hesitation. Despite the seriousness of this work and the difficulty of dealing with heavy and dangerous devices and equipment, I did not feel afraid of taking on this job, because I had received the same training that my colleagues were trained in to professionalize this job, and it did not conflict with my abilities or my femininity. We are trained daily on how to deal with explosive devices to improve our bodies to respond to any kind of explosives. “We return to our country with a piece of Kuwait in our hearts.”
This is how the American pilots expressed their strong love and attachment to Kuwait and the culture of its people. 386th EAW Command Chief Master Sergeant Louis Ludwig confirmed that Ali Al-Salem Air Base provides all the needs and services for the US Air Force; as it includes various restaurants, entertainment venues, and advanced gyms. This is in addition to a theater where one can watch the latest movies, a swimming pool, and outdoor sports fields, as well as an educational staff for the members to complete their university studies here, and combine work and study together, he said. He pointed out that the airmen have a desire to learn about the culture of Kuwait to be very open to what is happening in this country, pointing out that Kuwait is a good place for pilots to be innovative and work hard, and they love Kuwait and enjoy it and did not feel alienated by it. He continued: “Our airmen know exactly why they are here. Each of us has left someone he loves in his homeland to come here so that our countries can protect and enhance stability in the region more than ever before. Our relationship with Kuwait is continuous and special, and the thing that unites our nations is our common value – peace. We know that the US-Kuwaiti partnership increases peace in the world, and that is why we are grateful for this relationship.”