Deployed Airmen Trailblazers of Reaper World
Deployed Airmen Trailblazers
of Reaper World
By Senior Airman Jack Sanders, 451st Air
Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs.
Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan
September 16, 2013
– Many of the iconic images from military operations are of U. S. Air
Force legacy aircraft, such as a C-130 Hercules bringing troops and supplies to
austere battlefields or F-15 Eagles streaking across the sky twisting and
turning in dogfights and ground attacks.
Generations of Airmen have flown legacy aircraft still in service today.
Because of the brave work of those men and women, these airframes are still
finely tuned war machines.
Today's Air Force faces advances in computers and war fighting aircraft,
including the the F-22 Raptor, the F-35 Lightning II and the remotely piloted
Airmen from the 451st Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron move an
MQ-9 Reaper in preparation for a mission Aug. 27, 2013, at Kandahar Airfield,
Afghanistan. Members of the 451st EAMXS are building the institutional knowledge
base for Reaper maintenance as they enable continuous intelligence, surveillance
and reconnaissance coverage in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
At Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, the men and women of the 451st
Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron are building the heritage of Reaper
Airmen as they develop the institutional knowledge for one of the nation's newer
air warfare assets.
"The biggest challenge we face personally from an MQ-9 perspective is that
everything is so new - when you're dealing with legacy aircraft like F-16s or
C-130s you have that institutional knowledge base," said Capt. Michael Black,
451st EAMXS Reaper Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge. "There's some
guys that have worked on F-16s their whole career. They've been in for 25 years
and they've worked on nothing but F-16s and the Reapers don't have that."
For generations men and women of the Air Force have upheld a tradition of
honor and a legacy of valor. Reaper Airmen wish to instill that tradition and
legacy for future generations to come, Black said.
"The Air Force has only been operating the MQ-9s for about six years so
there's not the institutional knowledge base here that you'd have with other
aircraft," Black said. "There's a lot of tech data, parts data and things of
that nature but the legacy knowledge hasn't quite caught up. We're on the
forefront of that knowledge. It's the future."
With the future in mind the 451st EAMXS Airmen strive to demonstrate the
accomplishments possible with the MQ-9 Reaper. A demonstration made possible
through cooperative work between active duty, National Guard and Royal Air Force
"If I put the same uniform on everybody, you could go out there at any part
of the day and never know there were two active-duty units, three active-guard
elements and a UK element out there on the flightline working - it's just
seamless," said Master Sgt. Wayne Wood, 451st EAMXS superintendent. "It's
actually a beautiful thing to watch. As a supervisor, you always worry about how
people are going to mesh and work together when you get down range and they have
mastered it over there and it is a beautiful thing."
Wood said their cooperative work has aided in the understanding of RPA use
and brought more knowledge to the field.
"I'm new to the RPA world; I've only been working in it for a year now," Wood
said. "I'm an F-16 guy by trade and I've been deployed numerous times with the
F-16s. It's a great airplane and they're doing great things, but we are very
busy and the requirement for what we can provide is insatiable.
"We're constantly putting aircraft back in the fight and you definitely feel
like we're making a difference," Wood continued. "But, there are still a lot to
come for the RPAs in the future. We don't even understand 100 percent of the
capabilities it brings to the table because it's so new. It's very capable, very
reliable. We've just scratched the surface. I think in 10 years from now you're
going to see faster RPAs, bigger RPAs, doing things 20 years ago would have been