Joint STARS: Flight deck enabling mission crews

by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Master Sgt. Mike Arnold runs through pre-flight checks onboard an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System as Capt. Jared Swindle looks on at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia, July 11, 2013. Arnold is a 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron flight engineer and Swindle is a 7th EACCS pilot. Both are deployed from Robins Air Force Base, Ga. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)
Master Sgt. Mike Arnold runs through pre-flight checks onboard an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System as Capt. Jared Swindle looks on at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia, July 11, 2013. Arnold is a 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron flight engineer and Swindle is a 7th EACCS pilot. Both are deployed from Robins Air Force Base, Ga. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)

7/17/2013 – SOUTHWEST ASIA — Deployed to the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron flight deck members flying the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System here get mission crews to the fight supporting U.S. and coalition ground forces.

“We are responsible for getting the weapon system to the fight so the mission crew can support our forces on the ground,” said Maj. Eric Patton, a 7th EACCS aircraft commander. “Maintenance gets us started, the communications technicians load our mission data and we put the aircraft where combatant commanders have decided we can best support the war effort.”

All personnel assigned to the Joint STARS are deployed from Robins Air Force Base, Ga., the U.S. military’s only Joint STARS installation. The jet’s flight deck consists of two pilots, a navigator and a flight engineer.

“It’s an honor to take part and be involved in a platform that provides such vast capabilities to our ground forces in theater,” said Capt. Jared Swindle, a 7th EACCS pilot. “The products our jet passes down to the guys on the ground keeps them safe as they go after the enemy.”

And while it’s a team effort across all the squadron’s supporting agencies, Lt. Col. Claude Archambault, the 7th EACCS commander, said their mission is contingent on successfully working alongside their Air National Guard counterparts in a true total force integration unit.

“TFI — that’s the key,” the colonel said. “The guard has been deploying for this mission since 2003 and they bring a host of continuity to our team. Since we train together at home, we’re used to working together.”

Flying one of the oldest airframes in the Air Force, Joint STARS flight deck members don’t have a lot of the newer navigation and avionics technologies airframes like the C-17 Globemaster III have.

“You can manage everything on the jet from the pilot’s seat on a C-17,” Patton said. “But our jet requires a flight engineer as well. They’re the aircraft’s systems expert and manage the fuel and mission equipment panels.”

“Flight engineers have a more intimate knowledge of the aircraft,” added Maj. Scott Hazy, a 7th EACCS mission crew commander. “Because they know how to fix things they’re like the crew chief on a race car making sure all systems are operating safely and efficiently.”

But by the end of the day, it’s all about the joint war effort and overall team dynamics.

“I believe it’s the total team effort that equals success for us and the mission crew,” Patton said. “When we have success, they [mission crew] have success, because we got the jet where the joint war fighter needed it.”

[Editor’s note: This article is part two of a three part series highlighting the E-8C Joint STARS deployed mission.]

Published by Benjamin W. Stratton

I'm a photojournalist traveling the world sharing what I experience along the way.

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