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Airmen execute Project Liberty

The first MC-12 Liberty aircraft in-theater taxies out of an aircraft hangar for its first combat sortie June 10 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. The Air Force's new manned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform, the MC-12 is designed to directly support ground forces with real-time ISR capability. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tiffany Trojca)

The first MC-12 Liberty aircraft in-theater taxies out of an aircraft hangar for its first combat sortie June 10 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. The Air Force's new manned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform, the MC-12 is designed to directly support ground forces with real-time ISR capability. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tiffany Trojca)

CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq (AFNS) -- Eighteen months ago officials created a plan to bolster the Air Force's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission by adding a new platform to the ISR inventory. 

Now the Airmen assigned to the 362nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron Detachment 1 here at Camp Liberty, Iraq, are charged with the task of standing up the new ISR mission using the newly configured C-12 Huron turboprop planes, designated MC-12W, as ISR platforms.

The program, called Project Liberty, involves Airmen operating the MC-12W aircraft out of Joint Base Balad, Iraq, and more Airmen serving as ground-based crew, gathering and analyzing the intelligence collected from here. The first combat sortie, flown June 9, was a complete success according to all parties involved.

In a recent interview, Maj. Gen. Blair E. Hansen, the A2 director of ISR capabilities and Air Force lead for the task force said, "this fight demands decisive information, surgical ISR, tailored to the level of the fight. This capability will give field commanders more important and timely knowledge to make critical decisions. To be effective in counterinsurgency requires micro information fast, to both kill or capture terrorists as well as to protect our joint and coalition force and the civilian population."

More than 20 trained professionals, all deployed form Langley AFB, Va., work day and night behind the scenes to gather and analyze all the data and imagery the aircraft collects, to provide forward deployed ground forces with the near real-time information to make key battlefield decisions.

"The purpose of Project Liberty is to provide intelligence directly to the warfighter," said Capt. Jeffrey Johnston, 362nd ERS Det. 1 commander. "We are providing daily support to the theater."

Captain Johnston said, the new ISR mission isn't exactly a new capability, but what is new is the concept of the platform and the fact that they are standing up new capabilities to the fight.

"It has been a tremendous amount of work, but we have the absolute best people to pave the way for this growing mission," said Captain Johnston.

According to the detachment's superintendent, standing up a new mission like this isn't ever easy, but said thanks to the hard work of his Airmen the gap has been bridged smoothly.

"There is a reason this team was handpicked to come here," said Master Sgt. Kyle LaLand, who is a native of Queens, N.Y. "I really think we are making a big difference for the guys fighting on the ground."

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