|AWACS Squadron Reaches Benchmark Date |
AWACS Squadron Reaches Benchmark Date
By 2nd Lt. Julie Eilerman, 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs, 18 March 2000.
Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (AFPN) -- March 15 marked an important day for the members of the 363rd Expeditionary Airborne Air Control Squadron responsible for flying the Airborne Warning and Control System. The squadron reached a deployment milestone of 3,500 consecutive days serving in Saudi Arabia.
However, those 3,500 may seem a bit deceiving when considering the true amount of time the AWACS crews have been supporting operations in this area.
The squadron was first deployed in March 1979 to April of that same year to support Operation Flying Star. Those 46 days in theater were just the beginning. A little more than a year later, in October 1980, the squadron again deployed to this region in support of ELF-1, and they remained in this area until April 15, 1989. They returned to the region once again for Desert Shield in August 1990 and according to the commander, are still going strong. So in total, the squadron has accumulated almost 7,000 days in country.
The critical duty of the AWACS community encompasses three on-going operations, Operation Northern Watch, Operation Southern Watch and counter drug operations. The people who support those operations come mainly from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. However, they have received assistance from squadrons in Alaska and Japan.
The National Command Authority views the AWACS as the platform to see what other Air Forces are doing according to Lt. Col. Ross Lampert, 363rd EAACS commander.
"We are the premier surveillance command and control platform," he said.
Such accomplishments do not come without some sacrifice. Many of the squadron's members are deployed for many days a year, and Lampert says 200 days is not outside the realm of possibility for some of the crew position. He said some jobs have more people, therefore reducing their TDY rate but other positions are spreading the responsibility between a few people, increasing their operations tempo.
The normal rotation for the squadron runs from 45 to 60 days.
And it's not just the crews in the air who make up the heart and soul of the squadron. Lampert said much of the credit for the success and capabilities of the team belongs to the maintainers.
"They put in long hours and during the summer they work through tremendous heat. They get none of the credit and none of the glory, and they deserve much more," said the commander.
Even though only a fraction of the people who have traveled here to support the AWACS mission are here to celebrate, the satisfaction and glory of the recent benchmark goes to all the men and women who have served here as part of the AWACS team.