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    BORN UNDER FIRE; 25 IS celebrates 30th Anniversary

    BORN UNDER FIRE; 25 IS celebrates 30th Anniversary

    Photo By Tech. Sgt. Anthony Hyatt | U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Mazen Mehio, 25 th Intelligence Squadron commander, prepares...... read more read more



    Story by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Hyatt 

    363rd ISR Wing

    This past week, the 25th Intelligence Squadron, located at Hurlburt Field, Fla. celebrated its 30th Anniversary with several unit activities, including a Halloween-themed physical training, a squadron trick-or treat, a Chili Cook Off, their annual Memorial Golf Tournament, and a Combat Dining-Out.

    The activation of the 25 IS on October 1, 1993, sparked a journey that would shape the future of Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR). Currently, the squadron is composed of more than 200 professionals that provide Direct Threat Warning and Special Intelligence capabilities to Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) aircraft in support of U.S. Special Operations Command SOCOM) taskings. Whether on alert or deployed, the 2-5 enables the battlespace awareness and objectives geolocation to ensure the safety of AFSOC’s aircrews and targeting of its enemies worldwide.

    “When the 25 IS was established three decades ago, it was born out of the recognition that warfare was evolving, and a new kind of capability was needed to confront the emerging threats of the time,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Maz Mehio, 25 IS commander. “Since then, our Airmen have been deployed to every corner of the globe, faced hostile environments, and executed missions that required unparalleled courage, audacity, and precision. We have engaged in humanitarian efforts, combatted terrorism, and defended our nation's interests with unmatched professionalism.”

    The squadron has since grown from one squadron with five detachments into a group with four squadrons, two detachments and multiple operating locations.

    Before commemorating their 30th anniversary milestone, Lt. Col. Mehio acknowledged the sacrifices made by the men, women, and their families, in the pursuit of our freedoms and national security.

    “Your dedication truly sets an example for all. It is during times like these that we also pay tribute to those brave souls who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our nation,” said the 25 IS commander. “Their memory and sacrifice will forever be etched in our hearts. We honor their bravery and valor, and their names will live on forever as inspirations to future generations of warriors: Master Sgt. Navid Garshasb, Staff Sgt. Shane Kimmett, Tech. Sgt. Rocco Lastes, Senior Airman Julian Scholten, and Staff Sgt. Richard Dickson.”

    Before the kickoff of their Combat Dining Out, a handful of former 25th members were invited to participate in a speaking panel. Participating in the panel were: U.S. Air Force Col. (ret.) John Lewis, U.S. Air Force Capt. (ret.) Bert Turner, U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgts. Ralph Wade and Teddy Gambogi, and U.S. Air Force Col. Eric Mack.

    According to U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. (ret.) Thomas Barefoot, former 2-5 member and narrator for the panel, the speakers shared their experiences in chronological order. Lewis was the “Godfather” of the 2-5 – he was the man with the concept and orchestrator of the 25th. Turner was the first Direct Support Operators (DSOs) or DSO 1, Wade was the chief master sergeant during the stand up of the 25th, Gambogi was a longtime 2-5 member from back in the 90s and then again from 2010-2012, and Mack served as the 25 IS commander from June 2014 to July 2016.

    “Born Under Fire!” said Barefoot. “To understand what it means, you need to know the stories of the people that shaped the development of the Silent Shield mission.” [SILENT SHIELD, used by DSOs, to exploit information and keep AFSOC aircrews and joint special operations forces inside the enemy decision loop].

    The idea of the 25th Intelligence Squadron began on Dec. 29, 1967, when an MC-130, STRAY01, with eleven crew aboard failed to return from their combat mission over North Vietnam. Then 1st Lt. John Lewis was an Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) that had been a mission planner for STRAY01 and driven by the loss of his fellow crewmembers, would shape the future for many that followed.

    Years later, Lewis was indoctrinated into the world of SIGINT and those special capabilities.

    He felt like the intelligence stove-piped in “SCI” channels could have made the difference onboard tactical aircraft, according to Barefoot. Eventually, Lt Col Lewis assumed command of the 6990th Electronic Security Group (now the 390th Intelligence Squadron), where he attempted to bring those special capabilities to Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS). Despite demonstrating the significant returns on providing direct support to those missions, the effort failed to secure MAJCOM support.

    Almost a decade later, Colonel Lewis made another push, enlisting Capt. Bert Turner, who flew on those AWACS missions prior to commissioning. Turner was assigned as an Electronic Security Command (ESC) Liaison to 23d Air Force, the predecessor to AFSOC, and was charged with integrating ESC capabilities into airborne Special Operations missions.

    “Some of those capabilities were realized in operations in Panama, but the events leading up to Operation DESERT STORM would finally codify the vision,” said Barefoot. “Colonel Lewis and Captain Turner had fiercely advocated for the capability with partners, eventually briefing US SOCOM leadership just prior to DESERT STORM. As luck would have it the SOCOM vice commander had actually flown those AWACS mission years before and pushed for the capability ‘next week.’ An MC-130 flew to Texas over the weekend, where some maintenance magic fitted the first SILENT SHIELD system onto another MC-130 over twenty years after STRAY01 was lost.”

    The system was quickly deployed to DESERT STORM, where Turner flew the first SILENT SHIELD missions and the “Born Under Fire” mantra was established.

    During their first missions, the near real time intelligence that DSOs provided validated the importance of having them on board AFSOC platforms and Lewis and Turner were a couple of those key players in bringing that to life. What began as a concept fighting to get on an aircraft and maintaining relevancy, has proven to be a crucial capability.

    “History teaches us a lot about our past, but its also a window into our future,” Lt. Col. Mehio said. “In the early 2010s, the evolution of the precision geolocation mission to counter violent extremist organization required our squadron to once again transform, giving rise to the Tactical System Operator (TSOs), the most deployed AFSC in the Air Force over five consecutive years throughout the 2010 decade.”

    The aggression and pacing threat of our adversaries (China & Russia) have driven the Force to embrace new challenges.

    “It is an honor to stand before you and reflect on the incredible contributions and achievements of this remarkable unit over the past three decades,” said Lt. Col. Mehio. “These three decades have witnessed the unwavering commitment, sacrifice, and achievements of the exceptional individuals that make up our SOF Airborne ISR family.”

    “The people in the unit know they can rely on each other,” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Mark Gribbin, 25 IS Senior Enlisted Leader. “The culture built here allows members to speak up. The Airmen are willingly to take chances, take initiative and look out for each other.”

    Lt. Col. Mehio challenged his team to continue to push the limits of what is possible, to remain committed to honing their skills, develop their expertise, and lead from the front.

    “Happy 30th anniversary, 2-5,” said Lt. Col. Mehio. “May the next thirty years be marked with even greater accomplishments and a legacy that will continue to inspire generations to come. Thank you all for your unwavering commitment, your selfless service, and your steadfast dedication to our great Nation. God bless you all, and God bless the United States of America.”



    Date Taken: 11.02.2023
    Date Posted: 11.02.2023 10:24
    Story ID: 457028
    Location: HURLBURT FIELD, FL, US

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    Downloads: 1