Airmen acquire MQ-9 maintenance responsibility in Afghanistan
by Senior Airman Melissa B. White
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
12/2/2010 - KANDADHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- Airmen assumed responsibility of MQ-9 Reaper maintenance operations Dec. 1 here.
Nearly 75 Airmen replaced a civilian contract force, making them the first servicemembers to maintain MQ-9s since they entered combat operations in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.
"We're really excited to be here to be able to do this," said Captain Matthew, a 451st Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron MQ-9 Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer. "We're doing a job, and we're here to support an important part of the mission. I believe this type of aircraft is the future of the Air Force."
The MQ-9 is an unmanned aircraft system that provides close-air support and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information for ground commanders to help troops in contact with enemy forces.
"It's rewarding to be here supporting this mission," said Staff Sgt. Daniel, 451st EAMXS MQ-9 AMU electrical and environmental systems specialist. "My brother is a Marine, so that makes me appreciate my job and what I do because we're saving and protecting the guys on the ground every day. The other day, we were volunteering at the . . . hospital and a helicopter came in. We saw a pararescueman giving a patient CPR right in front of us, and I was like, wow, this is what we are all out here supporting, and we're helping people and saving lives."
The MQ-9 is similar to the MQ-1 Predator, but is newer, larger and more powerful. The aircraft is remotely operated by a pilot and also has an enlisted aircrew member to operate sensors, but it still requires hands-on maintenance to keep it flying.
"The Reaper is an upgraded version of the MQ-1, kind of like its big brother but, like the Predator, it is very simplistic and maintenance friendly because we don't have to maintain any systems to support a pilot," Captain Matthew said. "We can do anything the Air Force wants us to do; we're flexible, adaptable and ready to take on this mission."
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