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New joint BADC team ensures PSAB security from UAS threats

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Shannon Bowman
  • 378th Air Expeditionary Wing

PRINCE SULTAN AIR BASE, SAUDI ARABIA -- As unmanned aerial systems become a more ubiquitous feature of the battlefield across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, so does the need for innovative thinking and advanced technology to protect U.S. military and Royal Saudi Air Force personnel and critical resources.

To help secure PSAB’s airspace from potential UAS threats, the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing, in partnership with Task Force Americal, established a new Joint Total Force C-sUAS team.

Comprised of active duty, reserve component and National Guard Airmen and Soldiers, the newly formed base area defense crew, or BADC is responsible for operating several air defense command and control systems to counter UAS threats.

“This process is starting at the base level; however, it is working its way up,” said Lt. Gen. Alexus G. Grynkewich, Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central) commander. “When do we stop using those more operational level assets like air defense, artillery, patriots and fighters to go after threats? When do we hand it off to the base defense? And do we have those procedures laid out?”

To increase overall capabilities, defenders conduct regular exercises to ensure familiarity with the system and a seamless execution.

“These systems are very complex and there is something new to be learned with them every day,” said Senior Airman Justin Braza, 378th ESFS C-sUAS operator. “As operators, we have to keep current and we’re constantly learning, which ultimately makes us better at the job and helps us execute our mission.”

Empowered by wing leadership, the BADC unit has been entrusted to test and operate these advanced C-sUASs as a method to ensure the first line of air defense and security for the base.

“I think it boils down to the confidence we’ve gained in ourselves as a team to run these systems,” said Tech. Sgt. Martha Unzueta, 378th ESFS watch officer. “We’ve instilled confidence in our leadership by demonstrating that we know how to effectively operate, and in turn their confidence is fed back onto us.”

PSAB leadership has made it a point of emphasis to integrate Air Force and Army resources to ensure that the C-sUAS unit is equipped and capable to deter any potential UAS threat.

For U.S. Army Spc. Tan Nguyen, a Task Force Americal C-sUAS defense system operator, there was a learning curve during the initial integration process with the Air Force, but after a short period, the units began to mesh well.

“At first it was like a 180-degree turn, having to learn each other’s terminology and lingo,” said Nguyen. “But the more I work with the Airmen and the BADC team, the more comfortable and better integrated we all become.”

Although there was an initial shock for most BADC personnel upon finding out about their re-assignment from their normal duties as the base’s ground defense forces, they welcomed the challenge when they found out they would have the chance to join a new team, innovate and learn a new skill set.

“Where the systems cannot be tied together, we've got the humans tied together,” said Grynkewich. “They’re sitting side by side in order to execute that terminal defense. They have close proximity to each other and can make decisions about who's going to employ with what.”

In addition to increased transparency, the ability to execute command and control with a common picture has been a great capability to brand new and seasoned users.

“It’s totally different going from ground security to air security, but it’s cool because this is a new experience for all of us and we are learning together as a team,” said Staff Sgt. Fabiola Montes, 378th ESFS air defense operations controller.

The primary mission of any security forces unit is to provide force protection, ensure operational readiness and protect war-fighting resources. For the BADC team, stepping into new roles has served as motivation and given many a sense of pride and ownership.

“Working with this system is an honor but I also understand what a huge responsibility it is,” said Airman 1st Class Ruben Hershberger, a 378th ESFS forward area air defense operator. “But knowing that I’m working with such a great team of leaders, Airmen and Soldiers definitely makes it easier.”

The members of this empowered joint force have accepted their new roles to support PSABs mission, and they stand ready to operate the advanced systems and technology needed to sustain base operations.

“This is a new frontier for defenders, and our mission set is continually evolving,” said Maj. Daniel Lambert, the 378th ESFS commander. “We face new threats and adversaries every day, both on the ground and in the air, but our defenders are meeting these challenges head on and succeeding. We are steadfast and dedicated to ensuring that people sleep peacefully in their beds at night and that PSABs resources are protected and postured to ensure mission success within the AOR.”

The collaborative efforts made by the BADC team are likely just the beginning of Airmen and Soldiers integrating efforts to defend against UAS threats.

“We've made tremendous strides in integrating base defense capabilities that exist for a terminal defense of locations,” said Grynkewich. “There’s a variety of different systems, some from the Army and some from the Air Force being brought together under the Joint Capabilities Office that we are now fielding.”