Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan – The Ka-Bar that sits on the commander’s desk at the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron has survived three major wars over almost 70 years.
Lt. Col. Thomas P. Sherman’s grandfather, a sailor, was issued the combat knife in World War II. It was the only weapon Jack C. Sherman was allowed to carry on beach reconnaissance missions during the “island hopping” campaign in the South Pacific in 1944.
When the saltwater ate through the knife’s leather handle, Jack Sherman replaced it with Plexiglas from the shattered windows of an aircraft. He later gave it to his son, Thomas A. Sherman, who was part of the 1st Battalion, 84th Artillery assigned to the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968.
“It’s been carried by three generations of Sherman men,” said the commander, who met with Air Force Times photographer Colin Kelly and me today to talk about the Air Force’s partnership with Afghan security forces here. “It’s emotional to carry it.”
As commander of the security forces squadron, he is responsible for defending the country’s “largest combat and logistics hub,” according to an Air Force biography. In addition to ensuring the security of the base and its surrounding area, Sherman interacts regularly with the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army, as well as villagers, building trust and relationships and helping to train Afghan counterparts to ultimately take control of their own security.
Sherman has led counterterrorism support operations in Mali and force protection and support for medical relief in Ghana and for the insertion of African Union forces in Darfur, his biography says. He’s been stationed in Korea, Europe, Iraq and now, in Afghanistan. He’s brought the knife along on every journey, a reminder of his father and grandfather and their own battles for freedom.