Defense

April 10, 2013

‘Compass Call’ing: Are you listening?

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SSgt. David Dobrydney
Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan

Tech. Sgt. Justin Longway checks a patch panel aboard an EC-130 Compass Call March 23, 2013, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The 41st EECS flies nightly missions in support of troops on the ground. Longway is an airborne maintenance technician with the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron.

Even high in the air, they have their ears close to the ground.

Linguists from the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, are trained in the art of employing electronic attack for the purpose of denying, degrading and disrupting enemy communications from aboard the EC-130 Compass Call.

“We’re a precision electronic attack platform,” said Tech. Sgt. Dallas Allen, a cryptologic language analyst with the 41st EECS. “We can go out and … stop (the enemy) from communicating with each other.”

When on a mission, the airmen of the Compass Call employ precision electronic attack capabilities in support of U.S. and coalition tactical air, surface and special operations forces.

“You really have to have a lot of confidence in yourself when it comes to identifying certain kinds of communications,” Allen said. “Sometimes you’ll be listening and think ‘did I just hear him say that, or did I expect him to say that?'”

The linguists’ confidence comes from the amount of practice they go through while at home station, Allen said.

Senior Airman Whitni Orgass works at her station aboard an EC-130 Compass Call March 23, 2013 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The 41st EECS flies nightly missions in support of troops on the ground. Orgass is an 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron cryptological language analyst.

“We have to spend hours in the listening lab studying our language,” he said. “We go to simulations and that’s where we’re able to hone our skills. We listen to known communications so we can practice identifying them.”

The linguist career field is relatively small and with the group of linguists who fly, even smaller. Allen said there are probably less than 1,000.

Given the size of the career field, the linguists have shorter deployments than other Airmen. However, their time spent at home is shorter as well, Allen said.

“It’s a leapfrog effect,” he said. “We’re constantly out here.”

The missions can last anywhere from two to 15 hours, based on the need of troops on the ground.

“Some nights we might not have anything, other nights we may be extremely busy,” Allen said. “When we get feedback from (the ground troops) … it makes you feel like we’re really coming together as a group.




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