After 20 years in theater, Compass Call squadron calls time

After providing 20 years of continual airborne electronic combat support the to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron called time on its mission Sept. 28, 2021.

The 41st EECS was inactivated in a ceremony at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates.

The squadron initially deployed with the EC-130H Compass Call aircraft to Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks in 2001, and since then, has executed 14,753 sorties totaling more than 90,000 hours of flight time in the CENTCOM theater alone.

U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Lake, commander, 380th Expeditionary Operations Group, and Lt. Col. Joseph Clancy, former commander, 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, case the furled guidon of the 41st EECS during the inactivation ceremony of the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, Sept 28, 2021. The 41 EECS operated the EC-130H Compass Call aircraft, conducting electronic warfare for just under twenty years in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility before being officially inactivated. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master. Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)

“To put that into perspective, that’s more than 10 years’ worth of flight time airborne,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Clancy, 41st EECS commander, “which is even more impressive if you’ve ever seen how much we’ve shoved into the back of this plane.”

All that equipment “shoved into the back” is what makes an EC-130H Compass Call distinct from a C-130 Hercules aircraft.

When the U.S. Air Force recognized a gap in capability in 1981, a C-130 Hercules was modified, adding specialized equipment onboard, creating the EC-130H Compass Call that has been vital to success in theater operations, Clancy explained.

There aren’t many platforms that have been as consistently involved in the Global War on Terror as the EC-130H, said Col. Michael Lake, commander, 380th Expeditionary Operations Group.

“Electronic Warfare capability is like air — you really don’t think about it much and it’s not that important to you until you realize you really need it and don’t have it,” Lake said.

With such a distinct and unique mission set, the Compass Call has deployed to support exercises and operations in every geographic combatant command over the past forty years.

The Compass Call was built to disrupt the enemy’s ability to command and control their forces by going after their communication networks, Clancy explained.

“Throughout the years, we’ve made various modifications to expand our capabilities to include electronic attack against early warning and acquisition radars, enabling plug and play quick reaction capabilities, and addressing the emerging communications systems of our adversaries,” he said.

However, in order to be successful as the only Air Force airborne electronic attack platform, Clancy said, “Ultimately, humans are more important than hardware.”

The men and women of the 41st EECS had to adapt to a new adversary after the attacks in 2001.

U.S. Air Force members of the 380th Expeditionary Base Honor Guard team present the colors to open the inactivation ceremony of the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, Sept 28, 2021. The 41 EECS operated the EC-130H Compass Call aircraft, conducting electronic warfare for just under twenty years in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility before being officially inactivated. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master. Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)

“You’ve mastered new mission tactics, techniques and procedures as our adversaries changed their processes to make it harder for us to track, find and fix them,” Lake said to the 41st EECS team.

With an onboard crew of 20, and countless ground support personnel, it takes an enormous team effort to ensure the Compass Call mission is a success.

“These professionals make it look easy, but every one of these positions requires years of training to execute the mission and operate this aircraft as precisely as they do — and they do it really well,” Clancy said.

The Compass Call was in the skies over Afghanistan on the last night of evacuations, ensuring U.S. forces could withdraw safely while preserving our own ability to communicate effectively, Lake said.

“I’m confident we leave this theater without anyone doubting that our non-kinetic effects save lives,” said Clancy.

As the 41st EECS prepares to leave the AOR after almost 20 years, there is an immense sense of pride for all that the unit has accomplished.

“You’ve made all those who have gone before you proud,” Lake said, “and I know you’ll continue this legacy of innovation and overcoming hurdles in the future with a new platform, new ideas and new energy.”

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