All-enlisted RPA crew operates out of Al Dhafra Air Base

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Enlisted RQ-4 Global Hawk crew members pose for a photo Oct. 10, 2019, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. For the first time downrange, an all-enlisted crew launched and recovered an RQ-4s to perform operations out of Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, Sept. 13, 2019. (Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

For the first time downrange, an all-enlisted crew launched and recovered an RQ-4 Global Hawk to perform operations out of Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, Sept. 13, 2019.

Pilot positions for remotely piloted aircraft opened to enlisted Airmen in 2017; it was only a matter of time when a team of enlisted RPA professionals would perform operations in theater from Al Dhafra.

“This demonstrates the capabilities and leadership of the enlisted force, both in preparing the mission and executing it,” said Master Sgt. Michael Hoover, 380th Expeditionary Operations Group Detachment 1 operations superintendent and pilot. “It shows that with high level training, rank does not matter, only ability.”

The Launch and Recovery crew at Al Dhafra is composed of a pilot; Hawkeye, an additional pilot who serves as ground observer; and the operations supervisor.

“Enlisted or officer, the responsibilities of the pilot are the exact same – safe and legal operation of the RQ-4 in international and national airspace,” said Hoover. “We are all trained and expected to demonstrate proficiency at all times. There’s no difference between ‘us and them.’ We are pilots, plain and simple.”

All-enlisted crews have been reoccurring within Det 1, however not frequently.

“The mission of the squadron has always been precise execution of the mission,” said Hoover. “Enlisted within the pilot corps has only complemented this mission, as our prior experience has provided a level of maturity and decision-making ability highly suited to pilot-in-command responsibilities.”

Hoover said he was honored to be a part of the first all-enlisted Al Dhafra crew trusted to pilot the RQ-4 and to lead the crew responsible for its safe and effective operation.