Airmen provide critical air battle management

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jon Quinlan
  • 71st Expeditionary Air Control Squadron
A team of 140 U.S. and coalition force Airmen make up the 71st Expeditionary Air Control Squadron here, providing command and control over the sky in Afghanistan and air defense of the Arabian Gulf.

The 71st EACS, better known as "Pyramid Control," operates the 24-hour a day Battlespace Command and Control Center, acting as the senior tactical battle management command and control element for Afghanistan. BC3 provides operators real-time information from data link, sensors and radio systems around the area of responsibility, giving the team situational awareness of the entire region.

"Through radio and radar, this precision team orchestrates airpower to meet the needs of the supported commander in the field," said Brig. Gen. Randy Kee, the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, in his recent blog post. "(Pyramid) is a crucial member of our 'Grand Slam' team in helping us to collectively achieve the direction of our commander ... and to meet the needs of our fighters in the field according to their requirements and measures of effectiveness."

Pyramid provides the Combined Air and Space Operations Center with a real-time view of the air picture, handing commanders valuable information on the ground. The squadron members also support the fighters in the field by coordinating combat air support for troops in contact and airspace deconfliction for forces in Afghanistan.
Members said they feel like they're playing a large part in supporting boots on the ground as well as the aircraft they control.

"It's awesome to be part of this mission," said 1st Lt. Shannon Greene, a 71st EACS air weapons officer. "It gives you good experience working at a (control and reporting center) in the deployed environment."

In addition to providing command and control in Afghanistan, 71st EACS Airmen simultaneously provide long-range radar surveillance a of more than 350,000 square nautical mile area in the Arabian Gulf, typically tracking more than 1,000 aircraft a day. The unit works closely with the senior air defense officer at the CAOC and the Army's Air Defense Artillery fire control officer with the Patriot missile units to provide persistent air defense of the Arabian Gulf.

"It's our job to watch the (sky) and to coordinate with host nations, coalition partners and service partners to provide consistent and reliable air battle management," said Maj. Jason Brown, the 71st EACS night site commander.

"We also move information, gas and assets in order to meet the (Combined Forces Air Component commander) and supported commander's objectives," Major Brown said.

The 71st EACS (Airmen) provide critical battle management in a very busy airspace, said Lt. Col. Darren Ewing, the 71st EACS commander.

"The dedicated sentinels of the 71st EACS provide 24-hour per day watch over the Arabian Gulf region as well as vital tactical command and control to aircraft supporting ground operations in Operation Enduring Freedom," the colonel said. "It's a challenging mission in a very busy airspace and one of which I am very proud to be a part. Commanding a blended unit of active duty, Air National Guard, U.S. Army and coalition partners from the Royal Air Force and Royal Australia Air Force is a great honor. This is a fantastic team, doing incredible work every day."

Maintenance personnel play a major role in the 71st EACS's mission maintaining the $30 million facility and equipment. At the center of that maintenance is the maintenance operations center. The MOC is the clearing house for all maintenance on and off location, from the radars in theatre to the air conditioning units on site.

"We basically control all maintenance actions and coordinate with outside agencies to ensure the mission equipment is available for operation," said Master Sgt. Cate Mulder, the 71st EACS MOC coordinator.

Radar maintenance Airmen work around the clock to provide operators a pristine radar picture.

"(I) was very impressed by this team of Air National guardsmen who have been doing this kind of work at deployed locations across the AOR, as well as years ago in South America," General Kee said. "These folks know their system and have been ready-to-go volunteers for many years. What a privilege it is to serve with these kinds of spirited, can-do Airmen."