Reservist exemplifies Multi-capable Airman concept during Niger deployment

  • Published
  • By Mr. Bob Jennings
  • 442d Fighter Wing Public Affairs

When Master Sgt. Adam Lambert, a vehicle maintenance technician with the 442d Logistics Readiness Squadron at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., volunteered for a 6-month deployment to Airbase 101 near Niamey, Niger in May 2023, he knew he wasn’t headed for a typical deployment.

Lambert deployed to support a contingent of approximately 800 U.S. Air Force troops on the Nigerien airbase. For the first two months, he and another American VM technician worked together keeping the unit’s vehicles running.

They did not expect the military coup d'état that happened on July 26, 2023, in which General Abdourahamane Tchiani deposed Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum.

“It came as a little bit of a shock to us,” said Lambert.

After the coup, the U.S. Air Force began pulling troops out of the base and relocating them to Airbase 201, approximately 570 miles away, as a precautionary measure.

Lambert was one of those slated to go, though he had different plans.

“I knew if I left, they wouldn’t have anyone to fix vehicles,” he said. “That’s my primary job. Without the vehicles and equipment, the base can’t run and the mission is degraded massively. I couldn’t let that happen.”

So, Lambert spent the next couple of days convincing his leadership to let him stay on and take care of the vehicle fleet. In the end, he and a petroleum, oils, and lubricants troop named Master Sgt. Russel Thatcher were all that was left of the Logistics Readiness Squadron at Airbase 101.

The pair took on what they could, Lambert said, often working 16-17 hour days to make the mission happen. And not only the U.S. mission. Lambert got certified to drive the passenger bus from the terminal to the flight line and ferried U.S. and coalition troops to and from their flights. Other times, he would help the Italian contingent fix their vehicles, since they had no vehicle maintenance on station. Additionally, Lambert ran the supply section, ensuring parts and equipment got to where they were needed, laid new gravel and graded a parking lot, and even volunteered as a security forces augmentee in the air traffic control tower.

Meanwhile, the Nigerien army brought in troops from neighboring Burkina Faso to bolster their security and stationed them on the flight line.

“The whole time you were out there,” Lambert said, “you had guns pointed at you.” All U.S. forces had been issued body armor and carried it with them wherever they went, but to avoid any perception of hostility that might exacerbate the existing political tensions, they were instructed not to wear their armor or carry weapons.

While Lambert drove the bus, Thatcher took over passenger processing at the terminal.

Lambert said the two would go until they couldn’t anymore, then sit down in the recliner in the terminal and take a nap.

Lambert returned home in early October, describing the experience as his favorite deployment.

“The multi-capable Airman concept was definitely in play,” he said. “We needed to set an example for others to step up and do what was needed.”