AFSOUTH enlisted leaders visit Ecuador, encourage Airmen Published May 1, 2009 By 1st Lt. Beth Woodward 478th Expeditionary Operations Squadron Public Affairs FORWARD OPERATING LOCATION MANTA, Ecuador -- A large number of stripes crossed through Forward Operating Location (FOL) Manta April 21-22 when two chief master sergeants from Air Forces Southern (AFSOUTH), Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., visited Airmen to see their mission and hear from them firsthand. Chief Master Sgt. Lloyd Hollen, AFSOUTH Command Chief Master Sgt., and Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Van Gordon, 612th Theater Operations Group Superintendent, spent two days meeting 478th Expeditionary Operations Squadron leadership, "coining" more than 40 Airmen, and participating in a formal retreat ceremony. "Big picture, each and every one of [these Airmen] is part of the counterdrug effort in Central and South America," said Chief Van Gordon, who has visited Manta twice before. As the ramp and facilities here prepare to transition to comply with the bilateral agreement concerning surveillance missions in the eastern Pacific from FOL Manta, the chiefs ensured Airmen they continue to play a strong role until the departure. An estimated 12,000 to 15,000 people in the U.S. die each year in drug-related incidents, according to Chief Hollen. "That's exactly what Airmen do down here, try to detect drug movement," he said. The chiefs travelled to FOL Curacao prior to Manta to build their own understanding of the full AFSOUTH mission and the troops who support it. "We're a sounding board for any Airman-based issues and will take them back to the highest leaders in AFSOUTH," said Chief Van Gordon. When the FOL's security forces, chaplaincy, intelligence, medical and quality assurance Airmen joined the chiefs around a dinner table April 21 to ask questions and voice concerns, they were assured that their work is noticed and valued. "We want to find Airmen doing things right and tell them about it," said Chief Hollen.