News: British embeds provide 71 EACS with experience, professionalism
Story by Senior Airman Spencer Gallien
Partnerships have always been vital to conducting military operations. Today's military is no different, coalition partnerships remain important to successful operations.
The 71st Expeditionary Air Control Squadron and the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force Aerospace and Control System Detachment here, recently began a partnership providing an extensive radar presence over the Persian Gulf region.
"The Royal Air Force had extensive experience providing command and control in southwest Afghanistan during the past few years," said Lt. Col. Jon Alwood, 71 EACS commander. "When they handed their command and control role to the U.S. Marine Corps, Air Force Central Command requested a small British team here to capitalize on their experience as our mission grows."
The team of British aerospace controllers brought two key points to the 71 EACS, said RAF Squadron Leader Andrew Crosby, 71 EACS RAF ASACS detachment commander.
"Flexibility – being prepared for the unexpected, and communication – let everyone know how the plan is changing; keeping everyone updated minimizes response times and helps save coalition lives on the ground."
The first British team at the 71 EACS arrived in early December and is currently turning their mission over to the next group of RAF ASACS airmen.
"There are six of us (RAF airmen) here," said Crosby, in discussing his group of embedded airmen. "In a nutshell, our job is to make sure the troops on the ground receive the support from fast/strike capable aircraft in the shortest time possible."
"The 71 EACS gave us a very warm welcome," he added. "The U.S. brings so much to the game, USAF technology and enthusiasm combined with RAF experience has helped create a winning team. I think both air forces have learned a lot from each other and will leave at the end of their respective rotations more capable and complete operators."
The initial embedding of the RAF airmen with the 71 EACS was immediately successful. Minus a short notice deployment, the transition for the British controllers was a seamless one.
"We had our teething problems at the start," Crosby said. "We had originally expected to arrive in January. However, at the end of November, our air commodore decided that we needed to be here to support our coalition earlier. We ended up arriving in December."
After the RAF airmen were able to settle in, they began helping the 71 EACS provide a long-range, persistent capability to the Combined Air and Space Operations Center with real-time, detailed data.
"Each day, the 71 EACS becomes a stronger unit and offers improved C2 to troops on the ground and in the air in Afghanistan," said Alwood. "The British personnel here have been a key reason for this."
The British airmen have used skills learned while controlling airspace at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan – the mission they turned over to Marines last year.
"During our time spent here, the 71 EACS has been very keen on encapsulating our experiences at Camp Bastion," said Crosby. "It's been a great opportunity to share information and improve practices."
"Together with the Australian embeds, we have brought a coalition viewpoint to the operations floor, assisting with in-house knowledge of U.K. national assets, and particularly with picture compilation, to ensure an accurate air picture for the CAOC," he added. "We are employed in every operational role on the ops floor from the mission crew commander, who has the overall responsibility for the deployment, employment of fast-air assets and tanker aircraft, down through the air surveillance officer, responsible for picture accuracy."
As the first group of embedded British airmen prepares to leave Southwest Asia, a new group is scheduled to arrive, continuing the coalition partnership at the 71 EACS.
"The next British team is scheduled to arrive and train over the last part of May," said Alwood. "During the next rotation, we will make sure to use the skills of the RAF personnel to the fullest, not just as crew members, but also as instructors and heading up special projects ranging from scheduling and beyond."