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Art signals jammer's role in OEF

OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM -- Staff Sgt. John Alsvig touches up his painting of an EC-130H on a mural documenting his unit's arrival on the frontlines of the war on terrorism. Alsvig is a fuels system specialist from the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Darrell Lewis)

OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM -- Staff Sgt. John Alsvig touches up his painting of an EC-130H on a mural documenting his unit's arrival on the frontlines of the war on terrorism. Alsvig is a fuels system specialist from the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Darrell Lewis)

OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (AFPN) -- A Southwest Asia afternoon sun provided warm light as Staff Sgt. John Alsvig painted a cartoon likeness of one of his unit's EC-130H Compass Call aircraft.

The art was featured in the middle of a concrete wall used to deflect propeller wash from tactical and special operations aircraft flying in and out of this forward location. The wall gave Alsvig the canvas he needed to visually document his unit's pride and presence here. Alsvig is a fuels system specialist deployed with the 41st Electronic Combat Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

The EC-130H is one of the many weapon systems in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility that is actively engaged in the war on terrorism or poised to do so.

Dressed in shorts and a tank top after working his regular shift, Alsvig touched up his painted rendition of the airborne electronic signal jammer. The EC-130H is a modified version of Lockheed's C-130 Hercules configured to perform tactical command, control and communications countermeasures against enemy forces. By bringing noise jamming to the fight, the crew prevents communication and degrades the transfer of information essential to command and control of weapon systems and other military resources.

Alsvig's artwork is his tribute to the aircraft and the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron. It is also at the centerpiece of a new version of the unit's original patch design that incorporates a rising sun background found on the existing 41st ECS patch.

Positioned along the rest of the almost football-field-length wall with Alsvig's work are the artwork of more than a dozen similarly talented unit artists whose work goes back a few years. Other newcomers are claiming space to make their own mark.

This art collection documents a unique part of the relatively short lineage of the Air Force's air and space expeditionary force concept.

Illustrated in Alsvig's painting are the radio waves that send noise-jamming signals. Underscoring the bottom of the patch is the 41st EECS's blunt and concise combat motto: "In jam no one can hear you scream."

Understanding the seriousness of this mission, Alsvig explains it this way: "You (the enemy) try to talk on the radio. You're trying to relay some information to somebody ... but you're getting jammed. Nobody can hear you (communicate further) because 'Ppwwfftt' ... it goes blank," he said. This is often followed by one of the more tangible effects of lethal airpower -- a military strike by a bomb or missile and if there's time, a scream.

"It's all about projecting airpower and protecting our troops that are out there," Alsvig said. "That's how (Compass Call crews) take care of the good guys. That's pretty damn important when it comes to making sure the (F-16 Fighting Falcons) come home and the (F-15 Eagles) come home. I mean, you've got surface-to air (missiles), anti-aircraft artillery, other stuff trying to shoot them down. (We are) taking out that capability, so it's pretty damn important."

The seven-year Air Force veteran from San Jose, Calif., said he has been drawing since his mother encouraged him to try something other than tracing coloring book animals.

"I remember asking my mom 'What's your favorite animal?' and flipping through my coloring book and finding (a horse) and tracing it. She knew I traced it and asked me 'Well, why don't you try looking at the animal in the coloring book and then drawing it?'"

Those early drawings he proudly presented to his mother gave him the confidence to keep practicing and to gain even more notice for his skill. During his military career, he has used what he calls "my hobby" to design other patches for units and coins.

"I'm really into the heritage and lineage that goes along with the squadrons. It's kind of cool getting into the history," he said.

Alsvig has redesigned another similarly exaggerated A-10 Thunderbolt II for a sister unit from Davis-Monthan.

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