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JSTARS reaches 10,000 combat hours in Southwest Asia

by Maj. Bernadette Dozier
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

5/2/2005 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- The E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System reached 10,000 combat hours in Southwest Asia.

The aircraft and its operators, maintainers and support people have had a continuous presence in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility since July 2003 as part of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at a forward-deployed location here.

“Reaching this milestone is a demonstration of nearly two years of hard work by people who have been deployed here five or six times,” said Capt. Jeff Styers, 379th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron officer in charge of the JSTARS aircraft maintenance unit.

From a maintainer’s perspective, a deployed environment poses challenges. One issue is parts are either unavailable here or there is a delay getting them, the captain said. The heat, wind and dust also make it challenging to keep the planes flying, yet since January they have not missed a sortie.

“Just getting the jets off on time (can be) the hardest thing to do around here,” said maintainer Staff Sgt. John Paolozzi. “Sometimes something comes up that you can’t control, and you have to hope you have what you need here to correct it.”

However, being deployed has its benefits.

“It’s a great training opportunity for younger Airmen. They are doing some things they can’t do back home … this gives them a chance to put their skills and training together,” said Sergeant Paolozzi, who has worked on the aircraft for two years. “Some of the guys feel really good knowing the plane is flying and doing what it’s designed to do and saving lives of the people we’re watching out for on the ground.”

Master Sgt. Marion Driggers, 16th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron senior director technician, said he remembers in 1986 when the aircraft was a new “concept radar plane.”

“In the years that followed, I heard stories of the JSTARS program losing funding and being cancelled, and then surviving the latest rounds of budget cuts, being funded and continuing development,” he said.

Reaching the milestone is especially remarkable for this aircraft and a testament to the maintenance people, he said. Installing state-of-the art hardware and software systems on old airframes has the potential for creating maintenance problems. Plus, the desert climate and not having the same logistical support of the home base when aircraft break could lead to severely hampered mission effectiveness during sustained operations.

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