YOKOTA AIR FORCE BASE, Japan -- One small unit has the extensive mission of providing support services over a 76.9 million square mile territory.
As an active duty service member who has spent 17 years serving overseas, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Troy Sachao, 337th Air Support Flight commander, can detail the unique challenges of being assigned in Australia.
“Most of the time when we’re at an overseas location there’s a U.S. military installation that can provide initial services to get a member’s finances squared away, their household goods shipments and their privately owned vehicles brought in,” Sachao said.
That’s where the 337th ASUF comes in to provide individuals, families and leadership with services, policy guidance and morale enhancing programs.
“There’s a lot that goes on in Australia that sometimes people aren’t familiar with or it gets overlooked, and it’s great to be able to support those individuals,” Sachao said.
U.S. service members in Australia perform a wide range of missions across the continent. On the north coast Marines rotate in for 6 months of every year to train as a part of the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin. To the west at the Learmonth Solar Observatory Airmen keep an eye to the sky to monitor solar activity, and assigned to Australian units across the country from all branches service are exchange officers participating in the Department of Defense’s personnel exchange program.
“We are the lifeline for those individuals,” explains Air Force Master Sgt. Alandra Bayless, 337th ASUF superintendent. “We have a vital role in keeping the mission going in Australia, and without someone like my finance troop paying their electricity or other bills, their mission can’t keep going.”
The 337th ASUF provides not only vital financial support but also legal, educational, medical, logistical and administrative support.
With their service needs met, Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines are able to keep their focus on the mission and strengthening the U.S.-Australian mateship.
“Since WWI our troops and their troops have fought together,” the U.S. Ambassador to Australia, Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr details. “They have supported us in every major conflict and this alliance is increasingly important in the Indo-Pacific region, which is the greatest strategic competition of our time.”
With over 100 years of mateship between the U.S. and Australia Culvahouse reflects on the significance of that bond.
“It’s fundamentally important to have a close, strong and capable ally in the Indo-Pacific region. Australia is respected by people in the region and determined to build a network of other like-minded countries to step up in the interest of freedom and prosperity,” Culvahouse said.
Members of the 337th ASUF are also determined to enhance their mateships and have sought out ways to attend professional development seminars hosted by the Australian Defence Force.
“It’s a little hard to get professional development here, but we reached out to the Australian Defence Force and they welcomed us,” Bayless said. “It’s been great to attend and to build those relationships with them.”
The 337th ASUF strives to support and strengthen the military community, promote independence and mission readiness, and aid DOD members as they transition into their outback assignment, and with only eight Airmen to make that mission happen, service truly comes before self.
“This unit does a lot of work on a daily basis, sometimes 12 hours a day,” Bayless said. “Although we’re small we have a huge impact on the entire country. Without us I don’t think things would run as smoothly as they do now.”