By Master Sgt. Jeff Loftin
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- A unit here recently reached 40,000 flight hours in support of the Global War on Terror fittingly in an aircraft named for the attacks which began the war.
The 7th Expeditionary Air Command and Control Squadron reached the milestone Sept. 2 in E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft 02-9111.
"It's a pretty big event," said Lt. Col. William Gould, 7 EACCS commander. "It has taken us quite a while to get to this. We've been here since the beginning of the GWOT flying these missions and supporting the folks on the ground."
The unit, deployed from the 116th Air Control Wing at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., provides air-to-ground surveillance to theater ground and air component commanders. The milestone capped more than 3,650 missions for the unit whose service here started just two months after 9/11.
"The Army depends on us for ground coverage so it's very important to me to know we've been supporting them for 40,000 hours," said Capt. Karen Everman, a surveillance officer from Syracuse, N.Y., who was part of the crew on the milestone mission. "I was at Robins the day this aircraft was delivered and I actually flew on its first mission there. It's kind of like a home coming to fly such a significant mission on this jet."
The milestone marks years of unique support to the area of operations.
"We actually bring a huge menu of capabilities," said Gould. "We are the only platform in the world that provides wide-area surveillance for ground moving target indication. Also, we have a huge suite of battle management specialists who can control other aircraft if we need to, move around the battlespace, support [troops in contact], or support a downed aircraft if necessary."
The Charlotte, N.C., native said the JSTARS can provide data to help identify areas on which unmanned aerial vehicles should focus. Because what they provide is so important to units on the ground, the aircraft normally includes three Army crewmembers.
"I'm very proud to be a part of this because I know how important this platform is to the theater," said Army Lt. Col. Darryl Verrett, deputy mission crew commander for the flight. "To be here for this milestone is a very proud moment for everyone who is a flyer."