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Airman saves lives 1 frequency at a time

Master Sgt. John Blackburn uses a spectrum analyzer to ensure the electronic warfare systems in each vehicle is working properly Nov. 13 at Ali Base, Iraq. Sergeant Blackburn is filling a joint source solution tasking as an electronic warfare officer. He is assigned to the 732nd Expeditionary Support Squadron and attached to the Army's 142nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. He is deployed from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Francesca Popp)

Master Sgt. John Blackburn uses a spectrum analyzer to ensure the electronic warfare systems in each vehicle is working properly Nov. 13 at Ali Base, Iraq. Sergeant Blackburn is filling a joint source solution tasking as an electronic warfare officer. He is assigned to the 732nd Expeditionary Support Squadron and attached to the Army's 142nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. He is deployed from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Francesca Popp)

Master Sgt. John Blackburn uses a spectrum analyzer to test electronic warfare systems in convoy vehicles Nov. 13 at Ali Base, Iraq. Sergeant Blackburn is filling a joint source solution tasking as an electronic warfare officer. He is assigned to the 732nd Expeditionary Support Squadron and attached to the Army's 142nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. He is deployed from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Francesca Popp)

Master Sgt. John Blackburn uses a spectrum analyzer to test electronic warfare systems in convoy vehicles Nov. 13 at Ali Base, Iraq. Sergeant Blackburn is filling a joint source solution tasking as an electronic warfare officer. He is assigned to the 732nd Expeditionary Support Squadron and attached to the Army's 142nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. He is deployed from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Francesca Popp)

ALI BASE, Iraq (AFNS) -- Today, many Airmen fill joint service solution taskings. Master Sgt. John Blackburn is one of those Airmen.

As an electronic warfare officer assigned to the 732nd Expeditionary Support Squadron and attached to the Army's 142nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Sergeant Blackburn and Army Staff Sgt. Tim Carlson ensure convoys are ready to roll with a working Warlock electronic warfare system.

Sergeant Blackburn described the Warlock system as an invisible force field that knocks down enemy radio signals that could otherwise trigger an improvised explosive device and harm or disable a convoy.

"The systems are a lifesaving countermeasure," said Sergeant Blackburn, who is an aerospace control and warning systems operator by trade. "Insurgents have found different ways to detonate IEDs -- things like remote controls for RC cars to cell phones -- but we try to prevent that."

Warlock systems emit a signal that prevents remote detonation of IEDs. Additionally, Sergeant Carlson said it can collect, analyze and disseminate data to form a picture of the enemies' use of the electronic spectrum on the battlefield.

During the pre-dawn hours, Sergeant Blackburn can be seen walking from vehicle to vehicle using a spectrum analyzer. He ensures the electronic warfare systems in those vehicles are ready.

"We make sure the system is configured correctly and that all the switches are turned the right way. We test the system to ensure that it's jamming the correct frequencies," said the sergeant deployed from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. "If the system isn't working correctly, we hook it up to a computer and verify what isn't functioning properly. Based on our findings, we either fix it or send it to the Warlock shop for further maintenance."

The verification process ensures Soldiers are protected against the IED threat and can complete the mission safely. Sergeant Blackburn said his contribution is ensuring Soldiers are safe and that they develop confidence in their electronic weapons systems.

Classroom training that Sergeant Blackburn provides Soldiers helps them gain that confidence. He said it's imperative for convoy commanders, as well as each company's counter radio-controlled electronic warfare systems specialists, to know how to use or troubleshoot their weapons systems while out on a mission. The training also helps make them aware of any upgrades or changes made to the Warlock system.

Sergeant Carlson said the Soldiers learn how the training applies once a mission is complete.

"When someone returns (from a mission), they tell me that their systems were 'going crazy' and that they finally understand how they work," said Sergeant Carlson, a native of Deridder, La., who is deployed from Fort Polk, La. "I didn't do anything but show them how (the systems work) and give them information."

Sergeant Blackburn said the electronic warfare capabilities he and Sergeant Carlson provide allow Soldiers to transport supplies safely to sustain the war effort throughout Iraq. It also allows them to return home at the end of their tour.

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