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Piecing together the bigger picture

By Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown, U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs / Published March 30, 2015

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Many people balk at the idea of assembling a 1,000 piece puzzle. Imagine performing this task daily, except the puzzle pieces are actually the aircraft tasked with projecting airpower, saving lives and carrying critical supplies throughout the theater.

Airmen with the Expeditionary Air Control Squadron (EACS), also known as "Kingpin," provide the information needed for completion of the Air Tasking Order, a 24-hour planning document that assigns specific aircraft to specific missions.

"We provide 24/7 operational and tactical command and control capability for U.S. Air Forces Central Command in support of ongoing operations including Freedom's Sentinel, Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) and the Combined Defense of the Arabian Gulf," said Lt. Col. Ryan, the commander of EACS. "So left to right, we provide command and control across the area of responsibility, covering 876,000 square miles along with our airborne command and control platforms."

It takes a unique team to put these pieces together and contribute to the successful mission of the EACS.

"We are a very unique squadron, a total force unit of active duty and Air National Guard, a joint force with U.S. Air Force, Army with a requirement for Marines, and coalition force, as we have the Royal Australian Air Force and the British Royal Air Force all rolled into one," Ryan said.

One piece of this puzzle is maintenance, which repairs and maintains the radios and radars needed to provide the command and control.

"Our job is to maintain the TPS-75 radars so they can provide air coverage and support to our current mission," said Master Sgt. Jose, the radar shop supervisor, currently deployed from the Air National Guard's 141st Air Control Squadron, Ramey Air Force Base, Puerto Rico. "We make sure the radars are operational so the operators at the Battlespace Command and Control Center-Theater can perform their duties."

Another piece of this larger puzzle features the surveillance technicians.

"My job is to detect, track and identify throughout three AOR's to properly communicate with aircraft to confirm their identity and intention," said Senior Airman Isaac, a command and control battlefield manager surveillance technician. "If any tracks of interest pop up, we will push it up and get eyes on it as soon as we can."

It is vital for the service members working in the BC3-T to communicate and direct aircraft in the skies.

"Without Kingpin, a lot of aircraft would be running into each other," Isaac said. "It would be a bad day."

With so many issues happening at once, it takes a special kind of person to be able to direct the aircraft where they need to go.

"You need to be able to remain calm and work under pressure," said Isaac who iscurrently deployed from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. "The more you stress out or freak out, the worse it is going to get for you and everybody else around you."

This calm demeanor and professionalism has been key to Kingpin's ability to provide command and control for nearly 300 U.S. and coalition aircraft in support of OIR, Resolute Support mission and Freedom's Sentinel on a daily basis. During this Kingpin team's deployment, they have tripled the air space they control, which now expands across the CENTCOM AOR. They also support the Afghanistan Resolute Support mission and stood up the OIR Iraq and Syria mission.

"It has been very busy," Ryan said. "We started off with just the Arabian Gulf and then expanded out from there."

The success of the EACS can be credited to the teamwork displayed by each and every member. The EACS is unique in that they own everything from maintenance of the equipment all the way through the execution of their mission.

"We are one big family," Ryan said. "Without maintenance to maintain the radios and radars, we can't see the aircraft, weapons directors can't see or talk to their assigned aircraft, surveillance technicians can't identify the aircraft, and battle managers can't direct the aircraft to execute the mission that it is tasked with by the Combined Air Operations Center. We can't get the job done without everyone. It's amazing to see all the pieces work together so well."

(Editor's note: Last names and unit designators were removed due to safety and security reasons.)

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