The following article and photos were submitted by Mark Ziebarth, principal of Isanti Intermediate School and School for All Seasons.
“I just wanted to share this letter of appreciation from Major Kevin Eklund of the 746th Expeditionary Force. Our school has adopted this unit while they are stationed in the Middle East. They were deployed from January to May. Our students have written cards and letters of support for them while they were overseas. This has been a great experience for our students and it has helped them better understand the sacrifices some people are making for our country.”
I want all of you to know how incredibly honored I was to receive your cards and letters. They have really cheered me up knowing that you all are thinking of me. It was very nice to learn a little about each of you. I loved your drawings and artwork. They made my days much better.
When I was missing home I would read one or two of them to cheer me up. I also found your questions very thoughtful. They made me realize that I should tell you all a little about myself and what I do in the military.
I currently live in Isanti with my wife Liz, who works at the Isanti Intermediate School, and two kids, Ellie (11) and Mason (10), who go to the Art and Science Academy in Isanti. We have two dogs, two cats, two miniature donkeys and a horse. I was active duty military for 14 years and in the Reserves for the past four years. I have lived in North Carolina, Texas, Arkansas and Minnesota during my time in the military.
The branch of the military I’m in is the United States Air Force. I’m currently in the Air Force Reserves stationed at the Minneapolis International Airport. I am a military officer and my rank is Major. This July will be 18 years serving in the Air Force. The Air Force has lots of planes and I fly in one of them called the C-130 Hercules. It’s a cargo airplane with four engines that have propellers. I’ll attach a picture so your teacher can show you. My job on the crew is the navigator. I plan our missions, read the map in the air and direct airdrops (that’s when we throw stuff out the back on parachutes). The C-130 is a cargo airplane. We haul lots of stuff just like a truck that flies. We can carry 42,000 pounds of cargo in the back. If we aren’t hauling cargo we can put up seats to carry up to 80 people.
The best part of flying in the C-130, and where my job is really important, is the airdrops. I do all the calculations (lots of math) to tell the pilots how to get in the correct place, at the right altitude and just the right time. At that point, our load masters push the cargo, or people, out the back so they can parachute to the ground in the spot we want them to land. It takes many hours of work and planning to make sure everything happens just the way it’s supposed to.
Here in Qatar we take people and supplies all over the Middle East to fight the bad guys. Some of the places we fly are very dangerous so we do much of our flying at night. That way the bad guys can’t see us when we land and take off. Sometimes we stay up all night and have to sleep during the day. Most days we fly are 12 to 16 hours long, but sometimes longer. One day a couple months ago was 21 hours start to finish, but we get time off in-between flights so we can rest to get ready for the next mission.
Since I’ve been here during the winter it’s been very nice weather. Some nights were down in the 40s at the coldest. In the last three weeks though, summer has started here and it’s been over 100 degrees every day. I’m going to be glad to leave here before it gets really hot. In July and August, the temperatures are over 110 almost every day and some days reach over 120. That is hot. I will be returning around May 19 so maybe I will get a chance to come and see you and answer more of your questions. Thanks again for all of your wonderful letters and I hope you all have a great summer if I don’t get to see and thank you in person.
Kevin Eklund, Major, United States Air Force
746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.