Joint task force Airmen save lives in Iraq

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. R. Michael Longoria
  • 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq/Air Component Coordination Element-Iraq Public Affairs
Airmen assigned to Combined Joint Task Force Troy are dedicated to countering improvised explosive devices and saving lives of Iraqi and joint forces conducting Operation New Dawn.

The assigned Airmen are involved in everything from operations to intelligence and information-technology support. They are battlefield Airmen serving in joint expeditionary taskings alongside joint and interagency colleagues.

"JET Airmen are a vital part of this task force and bring so much to the table from explosive ordnance disposal skills to intelligence analysis," said Army Col. José R. Atencio III, the CJTF Troy commander. "I believe that JET Airmen contribute a great deal in making our counter-IED fight so successful in saving lives. One fight, one team."

One key responsibility of CJTF Troy members is neutralizing the IED threat through collection and exploitation of IED evidence and related intelligence in four integrated laboratories.

Staff Sgt. Jason Snow is often one of the first people to process evidence associated with the counter-IED mission. Sergeant Snow is the NCO in charge of the task force's Combined Explosives Exploitation Cell triage laboratory.

After an IED is discovered, EOD technicians immediately recover evidence from the crime scene and transport it to Sergeant Snow and his team, where the device exploitation process begins.

After ensuring no remaining explosive hazards, the triage laboratory team members determine which other task force laboratories will process the material, and in what order.

"Something as simple as which laboratory examines the evidence first can have a dramatic effect on the results," Sergeant Snow said. "For example, the electronics exam may destroy trace explosive residue, while chemical sampling may destroy valuable fingerprints collected by biometrics."

After evidence has been processed and sorted by triage laboratory technicians, it continues its journey. Chemical, biometric and technical laboratory teams all work to improve the way ground forces attack and defeat IEDs and IED networks.

Chemical laboratory technicians determine what types of explosives were used and identify any precursor chemicals that are used in homemade explosive mixtures. Biometric laboratory technicians collect fingerprints and DNA data to look for any possible matches to known insurgents in their various databases. Technical laboratory technicians strip down the IED to figure out how it operates.

The entire process is used to defeat IEDs before explosions occur and to prosecute criminals who are building them. The success of this mission is leading to increased safety for Iraqi citizens and Iraqi Security Forces, as well as U.S. and joint forces.

"By determining and sharing enemy trends, our convoys can adopt different tactics and procedures to mitigate IED threats," said Col. Michael P. Schaub, the CJTF Troy director of intelligence. "We are seeing IED-related casualties at an all-time low, and JET Airmen are having a significant impact on that."

With the primary focus of Operation New Dawn on building partnerships with Iraqi Security Forces, CJTF Troy members conduct an advise, train, assist and mentor mission to help Iraqi government officials to develop their own counter-IED effort and build sustainable security capabilities.

"Airmen have played an instrumental part in transferring the EOD mission to the Iraqi Army," Colonel Atencio said. "As the Iraqis become more proficient in their skills, we have taken more of an advisory role with the Iraqis leading all the EOD missions. It truly is an outstanding success story."