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Military

Total force unit controls sky over combat theater

by Capt. Teresa Sullivan
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs


5/24/2007 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- Seventy Airmen, Soldiers and guardsmen of the 71st Expeditionary Air Control Squadron operate the Control and Reporting Center here and watch the sky for theater ballistic missiles or other aerial threats every second of every day.

Led by the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Air Control Squadron out of Kauai, Hawaii, the team is primarily charged with identifying threats or aircraft foreign to the airspace over the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing and Kuwait, and can also provide valuable information to ground forces.

"Our team is very capable. Our job is to make sure you all can sleep safely at night, knowing the sky is safe," said Lt. Col. Myles Moriguchi, the 71st EACS commander deployed from the 154th ACS.
 
What makes this team diverse is also what make them click.

"We're seamless," said the colonel of the squadron made up of members from five Guard units, two active-duty units and the Army. "We may come from different places, but we all work for the 71st EACS. We have a mission to do -- one team, one fight."

CRC members maintain a vigilant watch of a real-time picture of aircraft movement through a tactical data link that receives information from various sources in their area of responsibility.

This link not only allows the CRC staff to have eyes in the sky, but also it allows the necessary people to be tapped in, seeing the same aerial image.

"We coordinate closely with the Combined Air Operations Center, a variety of aircraft, Navy ships, ground forces and with our Army counterparts with the Patriot battalion here," Colonel Moriguchi said. "We serve as an interface between the air and the ground and we can clear the air space if use of the Patriot is necessary."

The Army Patriot battalion includes air defense systems with radars, a control station, equipment and missile launchers with munitions at the ready. 

CRC members communicate closely with Army officials who stand ready to use their weapon system if necessary, the colonel said. 

"If we had a hostile on track, like a ballistic missile, the Air Force unit at the CRC relays the message to me, and after correlation of the track I relay it to the Patriot units," said Army Capt. Steven Rachamim, an 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade fire control officer and a Baltimore native based out of Fort Bliss, Texas.

Although they haven't had to respond yet, the CRC team is ready in a moment's notice seven days a week.

"My job every day is to maintain awareness of all the operations, to be sure we've got the pictures coming in and that we're properly linked with the Army and the CAOC," said Capt. Jeffrey Lum, the 71st EACS senior director and a native of Oahu, Hawaii.

Part of Captain Lum's job is to oversee the operational modules, considered to be the heart and soul of the operation.

The operational modules are made up of surveillance technicians who watch the data links at the CRC. Other key players for the CRC include satellite and microwave communicators, vehicle and radar maintainers, communication operators, supply technicians, intelligence specialists and other support staff.



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