Over the next 30 days, a 47-person U.S. Air Force team hopes to complete their mission in assisting the Italian military contingent’s taking command of operations around Herat, Afghanistan.

Members of the Tanker Airlift Control Element of the 621st Contingency Response Wing, deployed from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., are moving troops and materials to support the 300-plus Italian troops coming to the area.

“For this particular tasking, we’re supporting two C-17 sorties every day,” Maj. Mitchell Monroe, the unit’s operations officer, said in a military statement. “We also assist the Italian aerial port in servicing Coalition C-130s that land at Herat’s airport. We bring these airlift aircraft in, offload them, upload whatever is required and send them on their way.”

The bulk of the Italian force should arrive by the end of May.

The U.S. contingent also includes security forces from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., medical personnel from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

Sakhidad Ghaznawy has managed Herat’s civilian airport for 31 years, through the Soviet invasion, Taliban rule and Afghanistan’s fledgling new government.

“I’ve been here through it all,” he said, according to a military statement.

According to Ghaznawy, 63, Americans first built Herat’s airfield more than 40 years ago; he and his nine-man team work 12 hours a day for $60 a month.

“Although I’ve been offered more money in other places, I will stay here,” he said. “There is no training at this time, no one to send here if I retire.”

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