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Total force in action with Predator operations

by 1st Lt. Justin McVay
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

2/27/2006 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFPN) -- The U.S. Air Force Warfare Center’s implementation of total force initiatives continues as more Guard and Reserve members integrate into Predator operations here.

In an Air Force first, the center selected Reserve Lt. Col. John Breeden, to command the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron, one of three active-duty Predator squadrons, in December 2004.

He is the first reservist trained as an MQ-1 Predator pilot and to graduate from the Air Force Weapons School.

“We train Predator aircrews for combat squadrons,” Colonel Breeden said. “We have averaged turning out 45 aircrews per year for the past three years. In fiscal year 2006, we expect to graduate 105 aircrews and in fiscal year 2007 that number will grow to 120 aircrews.”

The “One Team, One Fight” concept continues to seamlessly incorporate into the unmanned aerial systems program. It enables the warfare center to meet the challenges set by Air Force initiatives to better use a smaller force that’s more capable, experienced and agile.

“This is a smarter, better way of doing business, because we’re able to capitalize on the unique experience levels and stability that guardsmen and reservists bring to the fight,” said Col. Peter McCaffrey, the warfare center’s Reserve advisor. “By combining all three components into a single unit, we are able to better leverage the unique strengths of each component for a fully integrated fighting force.”

There are currently 14 reservists and 47 guardsmen working Predator missions alongside active-duty military members and civilians.

“The buzzword for this decade is integration,” said former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper in a December 2003 speech to the Air Force Defense Strategy and Transformation Forum.

The Predator, once used only for surveillance, is now being used increasingly as an offensive weapon equipped with laser-guided missiles. It has proven its capabilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Air Force continues to expand the mission of the Predator because of its successes as a force-multiplier.

“By combining all three components, we can improve our combat capability while maximizing economies of scale in experience, stability and cost savings,” Colonel McCaffrey said. “Integration will also provide new, relevant opportunities for both the Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard.”

According to Col. Terry Fornof, the warfare center’s Guard advisor, 65 Nevada Air National Guard positions are authorized to support Predator operations at Creech Air Force Base, Nev.

“These folks are working in every aspect of the Predator mission, to include combat operations, training and tactics development,” Colonel Fornof said. “We are very pleased to be a part of this initiative and look forward to growing when Air National Guard manning positions become available.”

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