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Air Force Reserve Command activates first ISR Wing

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) -- Born out of necessity in 2012, the 655th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group embraced its destiny to restructure as a wing during a ceremony at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Oct. 20.

The 655th is the Air Force Reserve Command’s first ISR wing.

Growing national security needs for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in the years following the attacks of September 11, 2001, prompted the Air Force Reserve Command to increase its ISR capacity. The Air Force Reserve didn’t have any intelligence squadrons, and so began the process of fielding capabilities to fill in the gaps and serve the ever-growing need for ISR products and expertise. Over the next several years, the AFRC created several units to provide full-spectrum ISR capabilities to the Air Force and Department of Defense.

“Knowledge is power, and American warfighters deserve to know what is transpiring on the battlefield. We need to build that knowledge and situational awareness for our Combatant Commanders in the joint force,” said Col. Douglas A. Drakeley, Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command director of ISR, and the first commander of the 655 ISRG. “We fight as a joint team, so our capabilities become part of that joint team. We provide them the information to be effective.”

To increase ISR capabilities, the Air Force Reserve created intelligence squadrons associated with active-
duty units. The first of these, the 50th Intelligence Squadron, at Beale Air Force Base, California, was activated in 2008, followed by the 718 Intelligence Squadron at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. As the number of squadrons grew, there was a need to transition to the administrative and operational control of the squadrons to an ISR group carrying out the duties of a wing until a higher structure (wing) was created and activated in September of 2013. The group originally stood up as a detachment with 38 personnel working inside facilities provided by the 445th Airlift Wing.

Assigned to the Tenth Air Force headquartered at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, the group activated simultaneously with five subordinate squadrons. These squadrons included the 64th and 71st Intelligence Squadrons here, the 63rd and 42nd IS at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, and the 38th IS at Beale AFB. Additionally, the 50th IS and the 718th IS were assigned to the 655th.

The group was intended to achieve wing status in 2014. However, due to the 2013 government shutdown, that status was delayed. The group persisted, operating as a “wing equivalent” for the next five years, with every one of the squadrons achieving initial operating capability within one year and full operating capability within two years of stand up, while championing the necessity of organizing under the wing structure.

Drakeley believes the new wing structure will drastically improve the 655th’s ability to provide the ISR surge capacity the active duty requires when operations tempos extend beyond their current capabilities.

“When we started, we were struggling because it was a new capability that the (Air Force) Reserve hadn’t experienced yet,” Drakeley said. “But we continued to advocate for it (wing status) because it’s important; it’s the way the active duty is structured. It would have been challenging to integrate with our current active-duty partners if we didn’t have a similar structure and capability.”

Wings have a distinct mission with a specific scope, and are made up of one or more groups, and usually commanded by a colonel. Groups are made up of several squadrons, which are considered to be the basic unit in the United States Air Force.

The 655th ISRW encompasses two groups, the 655th ISRG here and the 755th ISRG at JBLE, and 14 squadrons over seven operating locations engaged in 10 distinct mission sets. The original 38 members now includes more than 1,200 full-time and traditional reserve military and civilian personnel.

The 655th ISRW celebrated this achievement October 20 in a ceremony in an aircraft hangar belonging the 445th AW where the organization has its origins.

“We started out as a detachment here in 2012,” said Col. John D. McKaye, 655th ISRW’s acting commander. “I can’t think of a more appropriate venue to celebrate this occasion.”

Col. Joshua C. Redden is the commander of the 755th ISRG. He knows there will be growing pains and challenges that come with a new organizational structure, but remains positive they will be met and resolved accordingly.

“Building processes and procedures are hallmarks of fully functioning wings and groups,” he said. “All of these challenges are overcome with strong leadership, a great attitude, and good relationships with outside organizations and agencies. All of which are characteristic of who we are. I’m looking forward to the future. It is very bright, indeed!”

The 655th ISRW is dedicated to serving as the premier and most diverse ISR Group in the United States Air Force, delivering timely, reliable, accurate and actionable intelligence products enabling a decision advantage over adversaries of the United States. The 655th consists of a headquarters and three tenant squadrons in Ohio, and 11 geographically separated units in California, Texas, Nebraska, Virginia, Florida and Maryland.

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