News: MC-12s find, fix and finish in Afghanistan
Story by Senior Airman Kayla Newman
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Since Dec. 2009, the MC-12W Liberty has been providing critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
With their motto, “Find, Fix and Finish,” the crew members on the MC-12W are vital to the mission in Afghanistan.
“We use our tactical systems operator to help find the enemy,” explained Capt. Michael, 4th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron mission commander. “We then fix on the enemy with a camera operated by our sensor operator, and then we are a part of the kill-chain as well; we guide other assets onto the target to be able to either eliminate or capture the enemy forces.”
While a typical mission only lasts five to six hours, the crew members on the MC-12W are the eyes and ears for the U.S. forces on the ground.
The mission of the MC-12W and its crew members is to provide tactical reconnaissance. The crew in the air builds the picture for U.S. ground forces, as well as gathers information and data about enemy forces.
“It is important to know what’s going on out there in the battle space,” said Michael, deployed from the 489th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. “We provide a gods-eye view for ground forces so they can see what is happening. It gives them more confidence going into an assault on a compound knowing they have an MC-12W above them to be their eyes and ears as they are doing their battlefield reconnaissance and assaults.”
The crew on the MC-12W is comprised of the pilot, the mission commander, a sensor operator and a tactical systems operator. Once the crew gets their mission brief and flight equipment, they step to the aircraft and prepare for their mission.
“Sorties can include a basic pattern of life mission, which is just us doing over watch,” explained Michael. “Or our missions can be something as advanced as supporting a helicopter assault force. That’s where we are providing overwatch for hundreds of friendly forces on a mission where the ground force attempts to find a high value individual or enemy target.”
The spectrum of the mission really ranges, so the crew members are always ready for any type of mission set.
Michael adds that during the crews debrief, they gather their lessons learned so that they are able to go back out and do the mission even better the next day.
The four-member crews of the MC-12W are different with every mission, however. Due to the importance of their mission, there is at least one MC-12W in the air 24 hours a day causing the crews to change and be flexible.
“Each person brings something different,” said 1st Lt. Bryan, 4th ERS MC-12W pilot. “We have four individuals working together as a crew. We’ve all had different experiences and we are able to pull from those experiences to help bring success to the mission we are supporting.”
With experiences ranging from finding a high value target and preventing an Improvised Explosive Device attack, to missions where there are friendly forces lost, crew members know how important attention to detail is.
“The theater is always changing and that requires our mission to always change as well,” explained Staff Sgt. Jerry, 4th ERS sensor operator. “We have to be flexible and adjust to change, so that we can deliver the best eyes and ears for the ground force commander.”
The 4th ERS commander, Lt. Col. Patrick Boland, says he couldn’t be prouder of the men and women of the MC-12W community, for the work they have put in since the MC-12W’s have been in Afghanistan.
“The MC-12W community is phenomenal and I am extremely proud,” said Boland. “But they should also be proud of themselves and their families should be proud of the work they have done in Afghanistan over the last four years.”
Although the MC-12W crews can’t always share with their families the specifics about their job due to its sensitive nature, they remain satisfied with being able to Find, Fix, and Finish for friendly forces.
“The MC-12 is a great platform, we love flying it, and it’s a great mission to be a part of,” said Michael. “I really feel connected to the battlefield and you really feel like you are adding value to what the ground force is doing out there. We love our ground force customers; they really make the whole thing happen, so we are glad to be in the air supporting them as much as we can.”