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Major makes move from air to ground

  • Published
  • By Airman Magazine
  • Randolph AFB
As a C-130 Hercules pilot, Maj. Jeff Ausborn, 43rd Airlift Wing, sees the world from high above the ground, where people and animals are indistinguishable. The world looks different when viewed through tiny cockpit windows. 

But he got a different perspective while doing a ground job at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti.
The major works in the air component coordination element, where Airmen synchronize airpower needs for Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. 

But it was when he volunteered to hand out food and water to local, destitute people that he really saw the difference he was making. 

"I got to see how the people here really live," the major said. 

The ground job is not like any other he has had while flying a C-130. So different that he had to tell his children how good they have it living in the United States. 

"Compared to how we live in the states, the people here don't live very well," he said. 
"Those who live outside the city live in rock huts with thatched roofs, tin walls, no windows or doors. 

"Water is left for them in 55-gallon drums alongside the road. People in the city live in what is comparable to the slums -- but they're a little better off." 

As deputy of the element office, he doesn't always have to the time hand out food and water. But he gets to help other people in Africa in a different way. He helps coordinate air travel for people, cargo, humanitarian supplies and dignitaries. 

The airlift workhorse for the region is the trusty C-130 Hercules. 

"The C-130s allow us to take people and cargo to remote locations in Africa," the major said. "We can land our C-130s almost anywhere." 

When landing zones are too small for even a Hercules, the element coordinates air support with local civilian bush pilots. He says it's quicker, safer and more affordable to use bush pilots than coordinating a ground convoy. 

The joint task force helps prevent conflict, promote regional stability and protect coalition interests. It does this by providing locals clean water, functional schools and improved roadways. 

The coordination element finds air transportation for flights to many countries, including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, the Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Yemen. Other "areas on interest" include Comoros, Mauritius and Madagascar. Operations have been ongoing since 2002. 

Major Ausborn said his toughest challenge is coordinating and tracking air support without reliable communications. 

"Cell phones and DSN lines don't work here sometimes, so we try to pass on information through our joint operations center," he said.
 
"Our main function is coordination," he said. "We try to smooth out the process to try and help others make their jobs easier, better and more efficient." 

He says the mission is worthwhile. 

"What we're doing here is a very good thing. It's about helping Africa as a whole," the major said. "I think this is a very good mission. 

"Knowing that we're helping in Kenya and Comoros is very rewarding -- and that I'm one of the guys putting all that airlift together."