News: Deployed AWACS squadron flies historic 4,000th combat sortie
Story by Maj. Khalid Cannon
UNDISCLOSED LOCATION -- On April 5, 2014, the 968th Expeditionary Airborne Air Control Squadron flew their 4,000th combat sortie, a milestone that began in 2007.
“This accomplishment is not only a testament to the aircrews and staff that have rotated through the AOR, but also a phenomenal feat for AWACS maintainers,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Ed Goebel, 968 EAACS commander and a native of Norman, Okla.
“The significance of this is even greater because it occurred in conjunction with the Afghanistan elections.”
The aircrew integrated with elements of the Theater Air Control System (TACS) to provide tactical command and control to coalition air assets in Afghanistan, protecting ground forces and providing security on election day, said Goebel.
Goebel highlighted the behind the scenes work of the 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
“The Airmen of Sentry Aircraft Maintenance Unit were key to this milestone of 4,000 sorties,” he said. “The effort of the maintenance team is impressive as the combined operations and maintenance AWACS team ensures E-3B/Cs are successfully launched every day.”
The mission of the 968 EAACS is to provide battle space awareness and tactical command and control in any mission set throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
The squadron, which is the only deployed Airborne Warning and Control System unit in the CENTCOM area of responsibility, also works with other TACS elements to provide situational awareness of friendly, neutral and hostile activity, as well as command and control.
“The sortie was a benchmark not only for our squadron and the AWACS community, but for Operation Enduring Freedom,” said Air Force Capt. Kinsley Jordan, aircraft commander and a native of Little River, Kan. “We are able to go up every day and offer the best combat support in every way, shape and form.”
The most important thing Jordan’s aircrew provides is vital information to the troops on the ground, and the pilots that support them, he added.
“We give the commanders the full combat picture,” said Jordan. “Every mission counts and every time we step to the jet, people are depending on us. This is the most impactful job I’ve ever had.”
According to unit history, the squadron was formed during World War II as the 858 Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on September 14, 1943. The B-24 Liberator squadron flew bombing missions over Germany and received the Distinguished Unit Citation.
The AWACS aircraft returned to Southwest Asia following the end of major combat operations in 2003, said Goebel. The original units deployed from Air Combat Command and Pacific Air Forces, and the enduring squadron activated in the spring of 2013.
“I was an Air Force Academy cadet on 9/11, and right after it happened I purchased a nickel from Ground Zero,” said Air Force Capt. Tysen Pina, an air battle manager and native of Roswell, Ga.
“I’ve carried it with me on every combat sortie I’ve flown over Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said. “To be here to support Afghanistan’s first free election and contribute to the democratic process is important to me.”