Just before he left Afghanistan, Henry Kight received a goodbye sendoff.
Yet, instead of fireworks, it came in the form of three bombs or, rather, three vehicle borne explosive devices, and a whole lot of small arms action.
“We’d had other attacks. Except this time, as they were trying to break through the wall with bombs and small arms fire, the Afghan special forces were fighting back the attackers,” Kight said.
“With the arrival of Kiowas and Apaches, they eliminated the threat.”
The heavily armed Taliban group attacked Forward Operating Base Fenty, a large airbase in eastern Afghanistan, at about 5 a.m. Dec. 1. It began as three suicide bombers detonated their cars parked with explosives near the main entrance of the base. The fighters were wearing U.S. military uniforms and were armed with mortars, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles. The fighting at the main gate last about two hours. Nine Taliban fighters, three Afghan security guards and four civilians were killed in the attack.
During his 10-month deployment to FOB Fenty at Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Kight lived through three major attacks so that he could do his job as a logistics assistance representative for the Aviation and Missile Command’s Readiness Directorate.
“I deployed along with Timothy Brimeyer and Leslie Carder to do contract oversight for the Theater Aviation Maintenance contract,” Kight said. “The responsibilities were different from what I had done in the past.
“Before this, I was basically an aircraft maintainer who assisted Soldier units with maintenance. I would evaluate repairs, help trouble shoot and serve as a conduit between Soldiers and AMCOM. So, this was a new side of aviation maintenance for me where I oversaw what the contractor was doing. I wasn’t technically in charge. I was looking out for the government’s best interest to make sure the government got what it paid for.”
The job represented a shift in contract management, taking the contract oversight and administration piece away from Army units so they can concentrate on supporting the war fighter. Administration of contracts and contract employees are now part of the LAR set of responsibilities.
During his assignment, Kight provided oversight as the contract ended with L3 Communications of Oklahoma City and began with AE Communications of Fort Worth, Texas.
“At my site, there were 35 contract employees involved with the contract,” Kight said. “It involved providing maintenance on all Army helicopters.
“I was responsible for ensuring the contractor lived up to the standards of the contract, and to make sure the employees had the right training and that the contractor had the right personnel in the right place.”
Brimeyer did the same job at Kandahar, and Carder did the job at Bagram.
“This was a good opportunity for us because it gave us exposure to the other side of contracting,” Kight said. “It will help further my career. I am considering moving into contracting.”
Kight has been a Department of the Army LAR since 2001. During that time, he has deployed for six-month increments to Iraq twice and Afghanistan three times. His most recent deployment, for 10 months, was his longest.
“It’s really rewarding work because you are working with the troops,” Kight said. “You are doing your part to try to make sure the kids come home safe.”
The Army veteran and 15-year defense contractor has a thorough background in helicopter maintenance that made him a good fit for a LAR position.
“Primarily, I’ve grown my expertise on Black Hawks and Chinooks. But I’m also pretty well-rounded with Kiowas and Apaches,” he said.
“To be a LAR, you have to have a well-rounded background in general aviation maintenance, and on a particular airframe. You have to be able to think for yourself and operate on your own. Sometimes, you may be the only one with AMCOM experience at the site, and Soldiers can be approaching you with technical questions outside your area of expertise. So, you’ve got to be able to reach back to the command and get the answers. You can’t just say it’s not my job.”
But Kight has decided to hang up his LAR hat. Since returning in mid-December, he’s taken a new job with AMCOM’s Maintenance Directorate, Field Service Sustainment Division, that will keep him closer to home.
“Being a LAR does require a lot of time away and it takes a toll after awhile,” he said. “We’ve got guys who have deployed many more times than I have. But I’ve decided I need to be a home. I’ve got a 6-year-old grandson and my wife has plenty of projects to keep me busy.”
Kight is married to Mary Kight, who works for the Garrison’s Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. They live in Marshall County.
Kight encourages other Department of Defense civilians who are considering volunteering for a deployment through the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce program.
“I tell everyone to go for it,” he said. “It’s extremely rewarding because you’re working with Soldiers and providing support for the war fighter in a way that’s a lot different from being here.
“There are a lot of positions open right now that need to be filled. Civilians who deploy meet a lot of different people and benefit from increased pay. The experience that they are going to gain working side by side with Soldiers they will never be able to get anywhere else.”