Delivering hope is just one of 3,000 days deployed

  • Published
  • By Capt. Lucas Brommer
  • 317th Operations Support Squadron
Early one September morning in 2010, I stood briefing a crew before they departed on a humanitarian mission from our base in Afghanistan to various fields across Pakistan. Rampaging floods left millions of Pakistanis stranded and in need of rescue to areas with shelter and food. Several crews from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, responded to this need, and I joined them as their lone intelligence support for several weeks of flood-relief operations.

On this particular September morning, a thundering bang suddenly interrupted my brief. No one in the room knew what happened at first, but we quickly figured out it was an insurgent attack, and their rocket lob landed a football field away from where we stood. Suddenly, I realized the date was September 11th.

Nine years before this day in Afghanistan, I -- like all of us -- stood stunned and appalled by the attacks of September 11, 2001. For me, it was personal; my brother used to work at the World Trade Center from time to time, and I didn't know on that particular day whether he would have been in that complex or not. After an agonizing few hours of not knowing, I found out he was not in the building and had made it across the Hudson to witness the horrifying effects of the towers' collapse.

Nevertheless, the September 11th attacks affected me personally, and I made a decision that day to respond in a positive way, to protect our country and my family from seeing that kind of terror on our soil again.

While deployed with 317th Airlift Group crews nine years later, that rocket attack woke me up to realize that I was doing just that -- putting my life on the line to protect current and future generations of Americans from having to do the same on our own soil.

The accompanying picture to this story is of Tech. Sgt. Matthew Stiles serving that same purpose. He is lifting one among hundreds of Pakistanis he and his crew rescued from despair and to a better place. Families like the one in this picture found themselves surrounded by floods, cut off from all life-sustaining supplies -- the 317th Airlifters and our partners provided their only hope of survival. They could not drive, walk or swim to safety, and they surely could not stay where they once lived. These stranded people needed food, and they needed to go to a safer place.

The crews recognized this mission and developed expert plans to make it happen, but I wanted to remind them of one thing...this day will be probably the first, and perhaps the only day these Pakistanis will ever meet an American in person -- make it count; show them who we really are, contrary to what we know is taught about the United States and its people in this region. If we show these people who we really are, maybe one will speak up the next time he is taught in school about the evils of the United States. The boy in this picture can now say that he has seen Americans with his own eyes, and they saved his and his family's life. This is a small contribution to the long struggle against ideological hatred of freedom, but that was our mission that day, September 11th 2010, and I was proud to be a part of it and the 317th Airlift Group.