BAGRAM AIR FIELD, AFGHANISTAN — On the combat frontier in Afghanistan, the ability to disrupt or exploit enemy command and control communication is vital to protecting the lives of U.S. and coalition tactical air, surface and special operations forces.
A big part of that mission is entrusted to the Airmen of the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron who fly the EC-130H Compass Call, which executes airborne electronic warfare to limit adversary coordination to attack friendly forces in the Combined Joint Operation Area-Afghanistan.
“The EC-130 is the only airborne electronic attack asset not only in Afghanistan, but also the Air Force,” said Lt. Col. Karl Weinbrecht, 41st EECS commander who redeployed this week. “If we went away, there would be a gap in capability that couldn’t easily be filled. Without the EC-130H capability, you lose a lot of the things special operations forces and other tactical units have come to rely on. It’s not sexy like dropping a bomb or shooting a gun, but it’s a uniquely important asset.”
The EC-130 flies with an aircrew that handles the flying and navigation of the aircraft, as well as several Airmen who operate and employ offensive counter-information and electronic attack equipment that is permanently integrated in the cargo compartment.
According to Capt. Christina Lakey, EC-130H pilot, the mission they perform is important because it keeps troops on the ground safe.
“If we weren’t here, the enemy would have better communications and could possibly be more aggressive against our forces. Everyone has a specific job on the aircraft, and teamwork is vital to what we do,” said Lakey.
Capt. Satchell Bachar, EC-130H copilot, agreed that it takes teamwork to deny and disrupt enemy communication.
“Each member of the crew has a specific duty. We have a flight deck and a mission crew, but we all work together to get the mission done,” said Bachar. “I like flying and protecting the guys on the grounds; it’s nice to come back to base and run across guys who you supported and know what you did to assist them.”
First Lt. Alan Yuen, EC-130H mission crew commander, said communication and coordination is vital to delivering the capabilities the aircraft brings to the fight.
“The mission crew commander is in charge of all aspects of the mission not related to the flying of the aircraft. My job is to manage the crew in the back as they perform the counter-information and electronic attack mission, and I do the coordination between the ground forces and the aircraft,” said Yuen.
Someone who helps the mission crew commander is the mission crew supervisor, who is an experienced cryptologic linguist.
“I help the mission crew commander use our information to aid the forces on the ground do their job,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Berry, EC-130H mission crew supervisor. “We make it easier for our forces to do their job; we give them the security of knowing that what we’re doing is making it safer for them to do their operations.”
Two key Airmen to make the electronic attack aircraft go are the flight engineer and the airborne maintenance technician.
“I’m the conduit between the pilots and the aircraft. I monitor the systems and subsystems to ensure the checklists are completed, and I monitor the fuel and power distribution and things of that nature,” said Tech. Sgt. John Rorie, EC-130H flight engineer. “I like my job because even though it’s demanding and requires quite a bit of attention to detail and accuracy, at the end of the day you know you were a significant part of mission accomplishment.”
Airman 1st Class Chase Krol, EC-130H airborne maintenance technician, is responsible to get the equipment in the back of the aircraft ready for the rest of the crew to do their duty.
“I’m the airborne maintenance technician, so my job is to initialize the systems and make sure everything is working,” said Krol, who is completing his first deployment. “I then hand it off to the mission crew so they can do their job. If anything goes wrong with the systems while in flight, it’s my job to make it work again. I like everything about my job.”
As the 41st EECS Airmen complete their tour of duty, all are proud of their service to support the mission here in Afghanistan.
For Weinbrecht, he is proud of his team’s efforts here.
“I’m most proud and got the most satisfaction by watching them do what they trained to do every day here to support our forces,” said Weinbrecht.
The 41st EECS has been continuously deployed in support of operations Enduring Freedom and Freedom’s Sentinel since 2002, flying more than 40,000 hours over 6,900 combat sorties.