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Airmen continue to fly Predator missions over Haiti

by Airman 1st Class Sondra Escutia
49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

2/12/2010 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS) -- Members of the 849th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron continue to maintain RQ-1 Predators from here and Creech Air Force Base, Nev., to provide reconnaissance to troops helping with Haiti relief efforts in support of Operation Unified Response.

This is the first real-world mission for 849th AMXS Airmen since the squadron stood up only four months ago.

"The 849th only stood up in October (2009), and we've already been tasked with a real-world contingency operation," said Master Sgt. Marlin Tatom, the 49th AMXS production superintendant and Holloman team chief, during a telephone interview from his deployed location. "That's a big deal for us at the 849th. This is a big deal for the entire Predator community because we've practiced going out into the field and setting up on an airfield in a situation exactly like this."

The remotely piloted aircraft support and maintenance Airmen from Holloman AFB teamed up with members of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing out of Creech AFB to support 82nd Airborne Soldiers and Marines on the ground in Haiti.

"Our crew chiefs and specialists are integrated at the individual level," Sergeant Taton said. "I call it the 'Team Predator' concept. Neither squadron could have supported this deployment by ourselves, but by combining assets from both the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing and the 849th AMXS, we are able to get the job done."

The two squadrons are working hand-in-hand to provide Predator sorties over Haiti daily, giving commanders on the ground a comprehensive view of the area in near-real time.

"They use the capability for security, locating fires and finding survivors," Sergeant Tatom said. "They are strictly for reconnaissance work."

Because the 849th AMXS is a training squadron, the humanitarian deployment has not affected RPA operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but has given Holloman AFB members an opportunity to learn in a situation where the operations tempo is approximately 400 percent greater than home station training, Sergeant Tatom said.

"We've taken a group of individuals that are used to the one-sortie-a-day tempo that we had at Holloman AFB flying training missions," he said. "We've gone from flying one 10-hour sortie at Holloman AFB to flying two 22-hour sorties over Haiti, and these guys have just really pulled through."

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