KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — This base’s 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron — which twice deployed to Afghanistan last year — has received the 2008 Pacific Air Force Maintenance Effectiveness Award.

The award recognizes significant mission achievements, effective use of maintenance resources and practices, and participation in personnel quality-of-life programs.

The squadron was honored in the medium-size category, which recognizes squadrons with 200 to 500 airmen.

Overall, the squadron completed 3,000 missions and performed 10,000 flight hours, according to its award application.

Comprising three aircraft maintenance units — the 33rd, 909th, and 961st — the squadron flies and supports 10 HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, 15 KC-135 midair refuelers and two E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft.

It is the only active-duty squadron to provide a combination of air refueling, aeromedical evacuation, combat search and rescue, and air battle management in the Asian and Western Pacific region.

Among highlights for the year, the squadron supported 433 rescue missions in Afghanistan and medically evacuated 256 coalition soldiers and Afghan civilians in combat areas. It also transported 260 critical-care patients to medical facilities worldwide.

Maj. Vincent Casquejo, the squadron’s operations officer, said the award captures the hard work airmen delivered while participating in numerous training exercises, lengthy deployments with limited manpower and minimal discrepancies.

"It’s a special squadron, and obviously we have special people who work for this squadron," he said.

For Staff Sgt. Lindsy Bledsoe, a missions specialist with the 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit, conducting medevacs with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan was most rewarding, especially the rescues of wounded Afghans.

"It’s just nice to know we’re not just out there helping our own, we’re helping everyone," she said. "We’re saving lives on a daily basis."

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Butler, a guidance and control specialist for the 909th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, said the award to him particularly reflects the efforts of younger and inexperienced airmen within his unit who had to acclimate quickly to a new aircraft.

The 909th had the fewest pilot-reported discrepancies of any tanker unit with PACAF, and its KC-135s delivered 29 million gallons of fuel to Pacific command aircraft, according to the award application.

The PACAF award puts the squadron in competition for top honors Air Force-wide at the maintenance level, Casquejo said.

Those recipients will advance to the Department of Defense competition.

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