ROBINS AFB, Ga. --- It takes meticulous planning and coordination to deploy every aircrew member of the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System from Robins.
Before that E-8C leaves the flight line for an undisclosed location, the men and women aboard will have completed dozens of individual tasks that successfully ensure they will get to board for their mission. That behind-the-scenes preparation falls to the responsibility of several offices with one goal in mind – that each member is combat mission ready for anything all year long.
In the 461st Air Control Wing’s 12th Airborne Command and Control Squadron, those offices include Readiness, Training, Standardization and Evaluations, Scheduling, Intelligence and Weapons and Tactics.
For a squadron part of an active duty wing that’s deployed nonstop for the past 15 years, it’s a continuing commitment that’s been felt by six combatant commanders from U.S. Pacific, Northern, Southern, Africa, European and Central commands.
In preparing active duty members to deploy, in the 461st Operations Group’s Operations Support Squadron, there’s a centralized office that funnels information to various squadrons so they in turn can begin preparations. In the squadron’s Readiness Office, 1st Lt. Greg Galey works as a link between the squadron and the 461st OG’s Readiness Office, facilitating any training requirements that members must have for their deployment status. For example, all deployers going to forward locations require M-9 pistol training, which the office schedules and coordinates to make sure all required training is completed.
“We’re really just a big liaison shop to try to figure out what is needed and who the right people are to contact to get that training. There’s no qualification that we have that doesn’t end,” said Galey, 12th ACCS chief of squadron readiness. “That’s one of the things about readiness. We don’t just get people who are ready to deploy or the ones we know about. There’s also that responsibility on the individual in conjunction with readiness to make sure they’re ‘combat mission ready’, 365 days a year. The role of any squadron is to be ready to go at any time.”
On what he enjoys most about the job, he added, “There’s a lot of pride we take in that to make sure we’re on top of it. In any office you can be reactive or proactive, and we choose to be proactive in order to maintain that readiness.”
Also playing a part in maintaining that combat readiness is the training and scheduling offices, responsible for tracking each person’s progression and proficiency through their respective training programs, whether it’s in a classroom or in the air. Scheduling includes necessary ground training such as chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear training, preparing aircrews against various threats. Whether it’s a dental checkup, a life support class, annual medical appointment, time in the flight simulator or in the wing’s state-of-the-art hypoxia familiarization trainer, the offices keep up with any and all requirements.
“We are the focal point for making sure the unit is 100 percent prepared for the mission ahead. To do that we train, train, train,” said Maj. Dan Travers with the Training Office. “To do that we have a lot of complex training that needs to be tracked. We need to keep our folks motivated and moving through the system.”
Both training and scheduling work in a symbiotic relationship, ensuring flight training requirements are scheduled and met. A calendar of classes is updated throughout the month. Because different crews will fly at different times, it’s up to individuals to make sure classes and flying schedules don’t conflict with one another.
“While we’re making sure in the shops that members are getting everything done, it’s ultimately that individual’s responsibility to make sure they’re getting scheduled for classes,” said Capt. Will DiMaio, a 12th ACCS aircraft commander, and pilot of four years.
Getting a member ready can take up to two months in advance of a pending deployment. According to DiMaio, over 50 events are required per person, not including training time in flight or in a simulator. Flyers get their scheduling needs met, but also make sure they have other things ready, such as dog tags, updated emergency contact information on file, and current PT scores.
The Weapons and Tactics Office, of which DiMaio is a part, is a one-stop shop which performs mandatory academic briefings to deploying members. There you learn general information, such as where you’re deploying, what you can expect to do during a mission, what to bring, who you’re going with, what your mailing address is and even what the weather’s like.
In the squadron’s Intelligence Office, crews are kept up to date on emerging threats, such as a country’s current political situation so best techniques can be met to support the current mission.
In the squadron’s Standardization and Evaluations Office, it’s imperative each deploying member is current on their check rides and that all testing requirements are met. Check rides in particular are conducted by evaluators to make sure each person knows how to do their job while in flight.
“Our main job is to hold people to the level we want them to be at, making sure everyone is on the same page and evaluating them to that standard,” said Maj. Megan Cooper, an E-8C pilot and aircraft commander.
The ultimate responsibility
Offices such as these work together along with crew members so they can go out and do their jobs when and where they’re needed.
“We’re getting our crews ready to go out and fight the nation’s wars. It’s important to get everyone as sharp as they can possibly be for their mission,” said DiMaio. “When they go out, the situation could change and now they’re faced with new challenges. We have to get them as prepared as possible so that when they are faced with those, they can respond as effectively and efficiently as possible to keep everyone safe.”