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Same mission, new name for E-11A unit at Kandahar

Lt. Col. Robert Finch, 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron commander, speaks during an activation ceremony for the squadron at Kandahar Airfield, March 13, 2013. The unit, which flies the E-11A, was previously designated as the 451st Tactical Airborne Gateway. “This deployment is a great opportunity for these warriors to serve their country, and being deployed here during the time this unit converts to a squadron makes it extra special,” he said. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Scott Saldukas)

Lt. Col. Robert Finch speaks during the activation ceremony for the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat March 13, 2013, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. The unit, which flys the E-11A, was previously designated as the 451st Tactical Airborne Gateway. Finch is the 430th EECS commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Scott Saldukas)

Col. Brook Leonard, 451st Expeditionary Operations Group commander, speaks during an activation ceremony for the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron at Kandahar Airfield, March 13, 2013. The unit, which flies the E-11A, was previously designated as the 451st Tactical Airborne Gateway. “It’s really neat that we can do this given the context of this day and age,” Leonard said. “Right now we’re on the precipice of drawdown and redeployment operations, so to stand up a squadron in this kind of environment is really a privilege. In many ways it speaks to the quality and excellence this unit has exhibited while they were the TAG.” (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Scott Saldukas)

Col. Brook Leonard speaks during an activation ceremony for the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron March 13, 2013, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. The unit, which flys the E-11A, was previously designated as the 451st Tactical Airborne Gateway. Leonard is the 451st Expeditionary Operations Group commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Scott Saldukas)

Chief Master Sgt. James Isom, 451st Expeditionary Operations Group superintendent, renders a salute to Col. Brook Leonard, 451st EOG commander, during an activation ceremony for the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, at Kandahar Airfield, March 13, 2013. The unit, which flies the E-11A, was previously designated as the 451st Tactical Airborne Gateway. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Scott Saldukas)

Chief Master Sgt. James Isom renders a salute to Col. Brook Leonard during the activation ceremony for the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron march 13, 2013, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. The unit, which flys the E-11A, was previously designated as the 451st Tactical Airborne Gateway. Isom is the 451st Expeditionary Operations Group superintendent and Leonard is the 451st EOG commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Scott Saldukas)

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- The 451st Tactical Airborne Gateway, the unit here that flies the E-11A, was designated as a squadron during a ceremony on March 13. It is now the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron.

The mission of the E-11A is to serve as a Battlefield Airborne Communications Node, a communications system that provides radio connectivity across the battlespace for airborne and surface operators.

"This deployment is a great opportunity for these warriors to serve their country, and being deployed here during the time this unit converts to a squadron makes it extra special," said Lt. Col. Robert Finch, 430th EECS commander.

The unit, which has been operating in Afghanistan since 2009, includes pilots from a variety of different airframes across the Air Force, including the F-15, F-16, F-18, A-10, C-17, C-20, C-21, C-37, C-130, KC-10, KC-135, RC-135, E-3, Academy gliders, B-1 and the B-2.

"I continue to be amazed at the quality of Airmen we have in our Air Force, regardless of the aircraft they fly or the career field they serve in," Finch said. "The diversity in this squadron is truly a blessing. The greatest advantage is that it allows us to be able to incorporate the best practices out of each community, which helps make this an outstanding squadron."

Finch also praised the maintenance team, which is made up of Northrop Grumman contractors.

"They've done a fantastic job at keeping these jets airborne with a mission that requires around-the-clock maintenance," he said.

Col. Brook Leonard, 451st Expeditionary Operations Group commander, said the unit does amazing work in bringing "beyond line-of-sight" communications to the fight.

"It's really neat that we can do this given the context of this day and age," he added. "Right now we're on the precipice of drawdown and redeployment operations, so to stand up a squadron in this kind of environment is really a privilege. In many ways it speaks to the quality and excellence this unit has exhibited while they were the TAG."

The 430th has a long history of service dating back to World War II. It was first constituted as the 430th Fighter Squadron in 1943, then re-designated as the 430th Fighter-Bomber Squadron in 1952. It was dubbed the 430th Tactical Fighter Squadron in 1958, and finally the 430th Electronic Combat Squadron in 1992. It was inactivated in July 1993.

"The 430th has always been activated when the nation needs us most," Finch said to the Airmen in attendance. "We must continue to brainstorm new ideas of how we can provide additional capabilities, allowing ground and air warriors to integrate with each other. I challenge you to continue to innovate and develop new tactics that can allow us to use our capabilities even more effectively."