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Constant Hawk aims to thwart improvised explosive devices

by Maj. Ann P. Knabe
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

11/20/2006 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- Deployed for the first time in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Lt. Col. Bill Cattley's mind is miles away from his full-time job as a district sales manager for a major drug manufacturing company in Michigan. But he uses the same skills on the battlefield that he uses back home in his civilian job.

Serving as the liaison officer for a unit at Balad Air Base in Iraq, the Army reservist works inside the Combined Air Operations Center more than 700 miles away from Balad AB.

Inside the windowless CAOC building, Colonel Cattley provides a vital link between Army troops on the ground and U.S. Central Command Air Force missions. The main floor looks like something out of the movie "War Games." One wall of the CAOC shows multiple video screens, with live MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle feeds and other intelligence and reconnaissance video providing updates to the joint staff.

More than 30 people sit at different computer terminals in the dimly lit room, all with unique missions supporting operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Colonel Cattley's mission is called Constant Hawk.

"We're part of a larger counter (improvised explosive device) mission that is one of the theater's top priorities," the colonel said. "Constant Hawk helps find and neutralize the terrorists who make and place these devices, with the hopes that we are preventing Soldier and civilian casualties."

The reservist said Iraq has an extremely busy airspace, and it keeps him busy on the job back in Southwest Asia, working long hours, six to seven days a week, as he helps de-conflict air space for different missions.

"There are a lot of military and civilian aircraft flying in and out of Iraq," said Colonel Cattley. "Keeping all these different missions flying safely is at the heart of what I do every day."

Permanently assigned to the 513th Brigade from Fort Gordon, Ga., the colonel is now supporting Task Force Dragon Slayer, a unit with most of its Soldiers based in Iraq.

He uses a combination of sophisticated military technology, old-fashioned maps and interpersonal communication to deconflict airspace in Iraq. He also spends a lot of time working with military flight coordinating agencies and civilian controlling agencies like air traffic control at Baghdad International Airport.

The skills needed for success in the desert parallel the skills he uses every day in his civilian job.

"Both jobs involve relationship-building to get things done real time," he said, explaining how his role as a district sales manager with back home influences his military mission at the CAOC. "By establishing solid relationships and greasing the skids, we avoid conflicts when missions are scheduled to happen at the same time in the same air space. Establishing trust and communicating mission constraints and parameters ensures we can be effective."

Originally activated for six months, Colonel Cattley was extended 45 days. With previous assignments during the Persian Gulf War and in Korea, Colonel Cattley said the line between active duty and Reserve duties has become blurred in the last decade

"I haven't felt the historic prejudice that used to occur between active duty and reservists in the past," he said. "Once we are activated and in the 'sandbox,' there is no difference at all between us. We are all one military, one fight, and, as a reservist, I feel I am looked at as a professional bringing my military skills and civilian experience to the fight."

Colonel Cattley contends Guardsmen and reservists are more vital than ever before in the war on terrorism.

"The Reserve component brings the vital connection from all over the country to this war and to service overall," he said. "Without the draft, there is less representation in our Armed Services as there once was, so having the Reserve and Guard ensures the military is represented in hometown America when people are committing forces."

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