49th Wing Airman reflects on deployment, importance of teamwork

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Antonio Salfran
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

“In a 24-hour span, everything changed,” said Senior Airman Daniel Solache, 49th Communications Squadron cyber systems technician. “Everything was calm and the next thing you know, the sounds of war were there.”

In August 2021, Holloman Air Force Base was preparing to temporarily house Afghan personnel who were part of the largest humanitarian airlift in history, while Solache played a critical role in the departure. He found himself in the middle of a frantic and hostile environment while at the Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan on Aug. 16, 2021.

Solache’s original three-day mission to transfer classified information turned into a month-long mission, due to his notable duty performance. His outstanding work ethic and teamwork caught the eye of his leadership.

“(My leadership) liked the work I was doing,” said Solache. “They needed people who were going to get the job done, so they requested that I stay for a while longer.”

Now assigned to a joint operations cell comprised of U.S. Army Soldiers and U.S. Marines, the lone Airman would embark on a new task to help where needed. As time went on, rumors began to circulate regarding nearby terrorist activity and the possibility of the U.S. pulling its military presence from Afghanistan.

For Solache, the rumors quickly turned to reality.

As he was getting ready for bed one night, Solache was notified by his team that there were reports of indirect fire near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Evacuation missions to pull the Resolute Support headquarters staff to Kabul International Airport began.

“We thought we were just transporting those people, but when our captain landed he let us know it was go time and we worked for like 26-27 hours straight,” he said.

The airport became crowded and dangerous.  It was an unrelenting danger that did not rest for Solache and his team, who were in “go-mode,” as he explains it.

“There’s gunshots in the background, we’re tired, thirsty, but focused on the mission,” he said. “We put a lot of trust into each other. No matter the rank or branch, we trusted each other and that was what helped us work through it.”

The experience revealed to Solache how important the concepts of trust and teamwork are in ensuring the success and fluidity of any operation in any environment.

“I had no idea how we were going to get out,” said Solache. “But I had to trust that help was on the way, I knew we weren’t going to be alone for long.”

He cites the comradery and sound leadership during the deployment as an aid to the mental and emotional balance of the team.

“There was a Marine Lieutenant who was always checking up on me,” he said. “Every single day he would ask how I was, and actually care about what I said because he was there with us, refusing to let us feel that we were alone. He knew that we all had to be present for the mission to be completed, and the only way to complete that mission was together.”

When Solache found out he was going back to Holloman AFB, the feeling was bittersweet.

“I wanted to stay and finish it out,” he said. “So many people were in desperation, and I just wanted to help, but eventually I had to get back home.”

For Solache, redeploying back to the U.S. and being out of a hostile environment was a social adjustment.

“Anybody who was in Kabul, or even outside of the gates, definitely lost and gained something,” said Solache. “It’s changed me a lot, and it’s shown me that we need to be more of a team and take care of each other every chance we get.”

Reaching out and speaking on these experiences not only raises awareness, but serves as a tool for coping with the effects these events can have on a person. Loved ones such as Solache’s girlfriend, Senior Airman Tiffany Simons, 49th CS knowledge management technician, speak proudly of the work he did in Afghanistan.

“Not many people have had to go through the things he’s already had to experience at such a young age,” said Simons. “I’m very proud of him for being able to talk about those experiences and making the sacrifices he did.”

Solache describes the experience as an example of what it means to be in the U.S. Armed Forces, fully aware of the sacrifices that may be made. And no matter what, he’s always ready.

“People ask me if I would go back, knowing everything that happened,” said Solache. “And, I always tell them absolutely -- because that’s what we signed up for.”