Hard crew concept promotes efficiency and morale

Depending on their job or tasked mission in the Air Force, Airmen may or may not be deployed as a “hard” crew with their teammates from home. In the case of the EC-130H Compass Call flight crews from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., they were fortunate to deploy together to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.

Currently, there are two crews executing the EC-130H Compass Call mission, each made up of 13 flying members and an associated maintenance team.

A U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Austin Lockhart, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, gives good vibes to an EC-130H Compass Call aircraft prior to takeoff June 29, 2021. Members currently supporting the Compass Call mission at ADAB are deployed as a hard crew from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Ariz., meaning they work the same schedule for the duration of their deployment, which promotes morale and camaraderie, and maximizes team efficiency. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Master Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)

“The flight crews are on the same timeline, which allows them to keep crew integrity, build crew standards, and execute at a high level,” said Capt. Ryan Fahey, tactics officer, 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, who is charged with instructing and leading the 35-member team and guiding the employment of the Compass Call weapons system.

The flight crew and maintainers sustain a high operations tempo for the duration of their deployment. “We have a steady deterrence mission and we cover all five of the CENTCOM Commander’s priorities,” Fahey said.

As opposed to being at home station, where Airmen must divide their time between flying and a myriad of other administrative and additional duties, while deployed, flying operational missions is the primary focus.

“The best part of being deployed is focusing on flying operations and tactical employment,” Fahey said. “Out here, we have one mission and we get really good at executing that mission because of the time and focus we dedicate to it.”

That extra time dedicated to the operational mission has been a huge benefit to first-time deployer, Airman First Class Logan Romo, airborne maintenance technician, 41 EECS.

“Out here, I am the sole AMT for my crew,” Romo said, “it’s been a challenge but I’m developing confidence in my duties.”

It helps that he deployed with his crew from home, whose experience has been very beneficial.

“I have an amazing crew, an exceptional aircraft commander, and great leadership, and that is making this first deployment really enjoyable,” Romo said. “Flying with the same people, we get to know each other more on a personal level, which helps create a crew bond and standard.”

The “exceptional aircraft commander” Romo mentions is Capt. Taylor Drolshagen, 41st EECS. This is Drolshagen’s second deployment, but first as an aircraft commander.

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, join hands as part of their pre-launch tradition in preparation for the EC-130H Compass Call aircraft to take off June 29, 2021. Members currently supporting the Compass Call mission at ADAB are deployed as a hard crew from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Ariz., meaning they work the same schedule for the duration of their deployment, which promotes morale and camaraderie, and maximizes team efficiency. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Master Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)

“Most of what we do is aimed at keeping U.S. and friendly forces safe and enabling them to accomplish their mission,” she explained, “so when they’re successful and everyone gets home safely, it’s extremely rewarding.”

She and her crew are part of a long Compass Call legacy. The EC-130H has been flying in support of U.S. Central Command operations continually for nearly 20 years now.

Yet despite countless successful missions, Drolshagen said “the biggest success of this deployment is my crew’s phenomenal attitude.”

This group is highly efficient at their jobs, yet has fun in the process, which is obvious when watching a launch.

“They’re a very young crew overall, most are first-time deployers,” she said, “and they’ve jumped into the experience with an energy that’s impossible to ignore.”†

Drolshagen agreed that the hard crew concept has many advantages. “After flying together multiple times, you begin to develop an efficient flow with each other,” she said. “More importantly, though, you really get to know each other, the crew becomes a family.”

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, enjoy a few minutes in the shade of an EC-130H Compass Call wing prior to its launch June 2, 2021. Members currently supporting the Compass Call mission at ADAB are deployed as a hard crew from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Ariz., meaning they work the same schedule for the duration of their deployment, which promotes morale and camaraderie, and maximizes team efficiency. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Master Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)

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