Joint Communication Key to Expeditionary Rescue Squadron’s Success
(Source: US Air Force; issued Feb 22, 2017)
An HH-60 Pave Hawk assigned to the 55th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron on the flightline at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. The unit provides combat search and rescue support over more than 500,000 square miles for Operation Inherent Resolve. (USAF photo)
AL-ASAD, Iraq --- An organization is most effective when all parts are moving toward a common goal in unison. However, syncing the efforts of multiple agencies across organizational structures can present a major challenge.

This is just the challenge the 55th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron is facing while trying to establish the infrastructure required for its mission in Iraq.

Although Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, was a well-established hub of American airpower during the height of the Iraq War, the Airmen now stationed here, contributing to the fight against ISIS, find themselves in bare-base conditions. They are starting nearly from scratch to establish the infrastructure necessary to meet mission requirements.

“With any base when you start off there has to be a graduated effort,” said Senior Master Sgt. Mike, 55th ERQS Operating Location Alpha senior enlisted leader. “It starts off with saying, ‘Hey we are bare-base contingency,’ which is what the rotation before us had. This was nothing but flat field.”

That flat field had transformed into a fully-functional operations center for the squadron within a matter of months. But it is still a temporary solution built of rubberized canvas and plywood.

Moving the squadron into a hardened facility across the camp would take a coordinated effort among joint forces operating to re-establish the base and the project was already behind schedule

“The thing that wasn’t getting translated with these guys was that people could be working on different projects at the same time,” said Maj. Thad Ronnau, 55th ERQS OLA commander. “The Army electricians didn’t have to have the building completely rewired in order to let someone outside start putting up T-walls. At the same time Air Force comm didn’t have to wait for it to be completely rewired to move in.”

Once leadership identified the disconnect in communication, the project immediately began gaining momentum. Mike took up the role of coordinating between the base agencies involved in relocating the squadron and started identifying places where improvement was needed.

“There are going to be hiccups here,” Mike said. “For example, the generators needed certain lugs, so if we can get the Air Force to order through our system to supply the Army … you are working out the kinks.

“Mine’s a small role,” he said. “Seriously just making sure left is talking to right.”

According to Ronnau and Mike the mission partners on base were seriously invested in the facility upgrade and have made great strides in recent weeks.

The civil engineers have cut the roadways to make way for the power, communications and plumbing lines; security forces have built up defensive barriers and concertina wire; and renovations on the building are well underway.

“They take pride and ownership of the product that they are putting out there, so multiple different entities have gone above and beyond to make this happen,” Ronnau said.

According to Mike, one of the reasons the units may put in the extra effort to ensure the rescue squadron gets what they need – even at the expense of more immediately gratifying projects – is that it is an investment in the joint force’s ability to operate.

“It is the ultimate show of support that what they want to focus on is the mission dictated from the (Combined Forces Air Commander) [Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve],” he said. “They get these guys bedded down and get everything going for them and they are buying insurance to have aviators in the future fly here.”

The rescue squadron’s core mission is to ensure that any downed coalition aviator is recovered as soon as possible and the move to across camp is going to help them execute the mission better and faster.

“Once we get into the new building, which is why it is such a priority, everything is supposed to be run on fiber optic cable,” Ronnau said. “This will allow us to have a higher speed of connectivity.”

Additionally, the building will include a more permanent set of communications systems, which will allow for more reliable connections to higher headquarters.

“The faster we get the notification, the faster I can develop a more tactically sound game plan, get the guys out the door that much faster and therefore pick up any downed or injured individual,” Ronnau said.

In addition to the communications enabling quicker response times, the new area will provide a more practical space for maintenance of the HH-60 Pave Hawks assigned here.

“We have two (4,000 square foot hangars) in the back and at the new location we have an (8,000 square foot hangar), which they can pull the entire helicopter into and do a lot more in-depth maintenance,” Mike said.

All of the accomplishments made as of now and planned for the future are only possible through the efforts of the installation’s agencies working together as a unified team.

“They were given a mess of a problem, but it still shows how the joint forces were able to work through it,” Mike said. “It is amazing work when you get to sit back and see that people want to do their job and they want to be the best. So far everybody here is just crushing it.”

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