National Guard December 2011 : Page 38
STATE ROUNDUP Just two years removed from F-16s, a New York fighter wing not only flies Reaper missions daily, it’s home to the MQ-9 maintenance school he 174th Fighter Wing has adapted quickly to a new aircraft and a new mission. the former New York Air National guard F-16 unit at hancock Field in Syr-acuse, N.Y., now flies the MQ-9 reaper unmanned aircraft system (UAS). “it’s a big change,” says Col. Kevin Bradley, the wing commander, “but i am very proud of our airmen here. they embraced the challenge and real-ized that this is a big deal.” it is a big deal in several ways. For 38 Fast Learners T one, the wing was the first in the guard to fly the Air Force’s hunter-killer UAS. And it’s the only guard unit to train both MQ-9 maintainers and air crews. it’s also the only unit in the east-ern U.S. to fly the vehicle in American skies, which it does above Fort Drum, N.Y. And the wing does all this while flying combat missions overseas. the transformation has meant that the 174th is well positioned for the fu-ture. While other Air guard units face relevancy questions moving forward, the future looks secure in Syracuse. Bradley credits the foresight to lead-ers like retired Maj. gen. thomas P. Maguire Jr., a former New York adju-tant general, who recognized early on the changes coming to the Air guard. “Looking across the enterprise, he realized that at some point the F-16s would end up retiring,” says Bradley. Maguire got the ball rolling on the 174th’s transformation. his successors finished the job. the unit’s last F-16 left in March 2010. MQ-9s now occupy the hangars that once housed piloted aircraft. Manufactured by general Atomics Aeronautical Systems inc., the reaper is a remotely piloted aircraft system that can perform surveillance and in-telligence operations as well as engage targets. the MQ-9 system often includes multiple aircraft, a ground control sta-tion, a satellite link and other ground equipment. the average cost of a sys-tem with four aircraft and sensors is about $53 million. | National Guard
Just two years removed from F-16s, a New York fighter wing not only flies Reaper missions daily, it’s home to the MQ-9 maintenance school
THE 174th Fighter Wing has adapted quickly to a new aircraft and a new mission.
The former New York Air National guard F-16 unit at hancock Field in Syracuse, N. Y., now flies the MQ-9 reaper unmanned aircraft system (UAS).
“It’s a big change,” says Col. Kevin Bradley, the wing commander, “but i am very proud of our airmen here. They embraced the challenge and realized that this is a big deal.”
It is a big deal in several ways. For One, the wing was the first in the guard to fly the Air Force’s hunter-killer UAS.
And it’s the only guard unit to train both MQ-9 maintainers and air crews.
It’s also the only unit in the eastern U. S. to fly the vehicle in American skies, which it does above Fort Drum, N. Y. And the wing does all this while flying combat missions overseas.
The transformation has meant that the 174th is well positioned for the future. While other Air guard units face relevancy questions moving forward, the future looks secure in Syracuse.
Bradley credits the foresight to leaders like retired Maj. Gen. Thomas P. Maguire Jr., a former New York adjutant general, who recognized early on the changes coming to the Air guard.
“Looking across the enterprise, he realized that at some point the F-16s would end up retiring,” says Bradley.
Maguire got the ball rolling on the 174th’s transformation. His successors finished the job.
The unit’s last F-16 left in March 2010. MQ-9s now occupy the hangars that once housed piloted aircraft.
Manufactured by general Atomics Aeronautical Systems inc., the reaper is a remotely piloted aircraft system that can perform surveillance and intelligence operations as well as engage targets.
The MQ-9 system often includes multiple aircraft, a ground control station, a satellite link and other ground equipment. The average cost of a system with four aircraft and sensors is about $53 million.
The aircraft resembles the better known MQ-1 Predator, which is used primarily for surveillance. But the Reaper is larger and far more lethal. It carries a full complement of weapons, including AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-38 joint direct attack munitions.
It’s also cheap to fly and can loiter for long periods of time, making it perfect for missions that are “dull, dangerous and dirty,” Bradley says.
From the 174th’s operations center, the unit flies combat missions overseas every day. But outside of that building, more activity is happening on the training side of its mission.
The wing is home to the Air Force’s only MQ-9 maintenance schoolhouse. The field training detachment offers seven different courses, including computer system maintenance.
Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Campbell, field training detachment superintendent, says the aircraft’s mechanical parts are simple, but its high-tech innards are a challenge the F-16s didn’t present.
“Maintenance practice-wise, it’s not that complicated in a physical sense,” says Campbell, who has spent almost 25 years with the 174th. “It’s a flying assembly of computers.”
Campbell has a dozen trainers teaching both Guard and active-component members. The detachment has already trained its first foreign maintainers— five members of the Italian Air Force.
Training air crews is the other major training activity in Syracuse. The unit started that program last month, flying training missions from Hancock over airspace at Fort Drum.
The man in charge of the wing’s crew training mission is Maj. Gary (due to security concerns regarding UAS pilots, his last name cannot be used). He says pilots come to Hancock Field with a pilot’s license of some sort and the wing seasons them into Reaper operators.
“The biggest challenge is wrapping their minds around the system, basically how to fly an aircraft while not feeling the G’s [gravitational forces] or being able to look out of the cockpit,” he says.
He says a major challenge for the wing was been acquiring U.S. airspace for training. It took months of negotiations with civilian agencies, like the Federal Aviation Administration, just to secure the airspace over Fort Drum.
The next task for the wing, Bradley says, is winning approval to fly the aircraft elsewhere, particularly in areas fully controlled by civilian agencies, not just for training, but to help with domestic-response missions.
Bradley says the Reaper’s ability to Provide real-time surveillance could be a significant asset to local authorities.
He cited recent flooding in upstate New York that closed major highways. A Reaper could serve as an invaluable eye in the sky 24/7 to assess damage and guide rescue and recovery teams, he says.
For now, the 174th will keeps it focus primarily on the overseas mission, one in which unit members know they are making a big impact.
“It was not my idea to convert from an F-16 to an MQ-9, but you know what? I wish it had been,” Bradley says. “We have never been closer to those soldiers and Marines in the battlefield. I get a real sense that people on the base really understand that we are not just training for a deployment.”
—By Andrew Waldman
Bomb-Sniffing ‘Trailblazers’ to Go With Brigade to Afghanistan
The 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team will be the first Guard unit of its kind to employ Tactical Explosive Detection Dog teams (TEDDs).
“They are trailblazers,” said Ohio Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Greg Sewell, the brigade operations noncommissioned officer. “They are writing the [Standard Operating Procedures] for future National Guard units.”
The dogs and their validated handlers have joined the rest of the 37th at Camp Shelby, Miss., after eight weeks of hands-on training in Indiana and Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz. The brigade Went to Camp Shelby last month to prepare for a deployment to Afghanistan.
The Army-operated TEDD program was a response to a requirement by retired Gen. David Petraeus when he commanded U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. He wanted more ways to counter improvised-explosive device attacks.
Under the TEDD program, infantry soldiers are paired with the bombsniffing dogs and given a training course on how to handle them.
The dog and handler teams will be used to detect a variety of explosive devices. If they find a device, they report it to an ordnance disposal unit.
“The TEDD program is designed for combat-arms folks to beef up the organic capabilities of a maneuver unit,” Sewell said.
“They are not attack dogs,” Martin said. “They sniff. That’s their only purpose.”
Guardsmen Combine Efforts To Practice Somber Mission
Some Arizona and California Air National Guardsmen in Phoenix for the 2011 Vigilant Guard Exercise were assigned a necessary, but somber training scenario—find and recover the victims of a disaster.
Elements from both states combined to form a fatality search-andrecovery team (FSRT), which is the last unit in line in any catastrophe, but the first to be relied upon to help bring closure.
Seven members of California’s 146th Airlift Wing were part of that force. They joined nearly two dozen personnel from Arizona’s 162nd Fighter Wing to use exercise Vigilant Guard for training enhancement.
Their mission: Collect the dead.
“It’s one of those things that most people don’t like to do, but it’s something that must be done,” said Master Sgt. Mike Hawkins, the team leader.
Vigilant Guard brought civilian and military responders together to test Communications, coordinate recovery efforts and create a plan to deal with a large-scale state emergency.
The 2011 scenario was a simulated flood of Phoenix followed by a 10-kiloton improvised nuclear detonation. The devastation would be vast, with buildings leveled, radioactive fallout and fires.
The crew alternated going into a simulated contaminated area to extract bodies or body parts after other military elements fulfilled their disasterrecovery roles.
“We know part of our process is to help provide closure to families,” said Senior Master Sgt. Carolyn Haynes, the team coordinator. “We see that part. It’s more than just recovering people. It’s about helping answer questions.”
Minnesota Moving Out: Chinooks Vital To U.S. Draw down in Iraq
A Minnesota Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter company has become a big player in the removal of personnel and equipment from Iraq.
B Company, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 211th Aviation, is deployed with 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 171st Aviation, a Georgia Army Guard unit attached to the California Army Guard’s 40th Combat Aviation Brigade in Iraq.
But B Company is the only Chinook unit left in country.
“The Chinooks have been important any time we’ve had any draw downs, repostures or [base closings],” said Capt. John Allen, a staff officer with the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade. “We move anything and everything we can to help expedite the whole process. And oftentimes, we are the sole provider of aerial assets to the bases that can’t support fixed-wing aircraft.”
The large tandem-rotor helicopter is the Army’s go-to, heavy-lift helicopter and equipment transporter. It can carry up to 26,000 pounds, either inside the cabin or sling loaded underneath.
Chinooks are typically flown during the nighttime hours to capitalize on the additional protection offered by darkness. As a result, the unit has adopted the motto “All Night Long” from the title of a popular Lionel Ritchie tune.
Small Military Police Outfit Performs Big in Afghanistan
The 156th Military Police Detachment’s primary objective in Afghanistan is to keep law and order in Regional Command North.
It has done that and so much more.
Despite having only 45 soldiers, the West Virginia Army National Guard unit is able to complete this mission and a multitude of other tasks, said Capt. Kenneth Murray, the detachment commander.
Among its additional responsibilities are mentoring and training various Afghan National Security Forces and helping with the biometric enrollment of Afghan national prisoners, workers and security forces, he said.
Protecting coalition forces while conducting route reconnaissance and area and point security are also priorities, he added.
“All of the soldiers here have gone to schools and are meant to perform in specialized roles, such as criminal investigators, and traffic and accident investigators,” Murray said. “Generally, a law-and-order detachment is augmented by another MP company, which would handle the patrolling, but here we’re forced to be the road MP as well as the investigator.”
Investigator Shane Bryant, the team chief of investigations at Camp Marmal, said the unit also has made significant advances since the beginning of its deployment.
“It’s all about building a strong foundation, and then building on top of that,” he said.
Success can also be seen in the relationship the detachment has forged with its operational parent unit, the active- component Army’s 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.
“There is no doubt in my mind that soldiers and civilians enjoy a safer and more disciplined environment because of the presence of Captain Murray and his soldiers,” said Lt. Col. Michael Burns, the brigade deputy commander.
—By Sgt. Richard Wrigley
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