“Pyramid” provides critical air battle management for OEF, ADAG operations
By Capt. Jon Quinlan, 71st Expeditionary Air Control Squadron
/ Published August 27, 2010
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- A team of 140 U.S. and Coalition Force Airmen make up the 71st Expeditionary Air Control Squadron here, providing command and control over the skies in Afghanistan and Air Defense of the Arabian Gulf.
The 71st EACS, better known as "Pyramid Control," operates the 24-hour a day Battlespace Command and Control Center, acting as the senior tactical battle management command and control element for Afghanistan. BC3 provides operators real-time information from data link, sensors and radio systems around the area of responsibility, giving the team situational awareness of the entire region.
Through radio and radar, this precision team orchestrates airpower to meet the needs of the supported commander in the field," said Brig. Gen. Randy Kee, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, in his recent Blog post. "(Pyramid) is a crucial member of our Grand Slam team in helping us to collectively achieve the direction of our commander ... and to meet the needs of our fighters in the field according to their requirements and measures of effectiveness."
Pyramid provides the Combined Air and Space Operations Center with a real-time view of the air picture, handing commanders valuable information on the ground. The squadron also supports the fighters in the field by coordinating combat air support for troops in contact, and airspace de-confliction for forces in Afghanistan. Members feel like they are playing a large part in supporting boots on the ground as well as the aircraft they control.
"It's awesome to be part of this mission," said 1st Lt. Shannon Greene, 71st EACS air weapons officer deployed from the 12th Airborne Command and Control Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, Ga. "It gives you good experience working at a CRC in the deployed environment."
In addition to providing command and control in Afghanistan, Pyramid simultaneously provides long-range radar surveillance of more than 350,000 square nautical mile area in the Arabian Gulf, typically tracking over 1,000 aircraft a day. The unit works closely with the senior air defense officer at the CAOC and the Army's Air Defense Artillery fire control officer with the Patriot missile units to provide persistent air defense of the Arabian Gulf.
"It's our job to watch the skies and to coordinate with host nations, coalition partners and service partners to provide consistent and reliable air battle management," said Maj. Jason Brown, 71st EACS night site commander, who is deployed from the Utah Air National Guard's 109th Air Control Squadron.
"We also move information, gas, and assets in order to meet the (Combined Forces Air Component Commander) and supported commander's objectives," Major Brown said.
The 71st EACS provides critical battle management in a very busy airspace, according to Lt. Col. Darren Ewing, 71st EACS commander, deployed here from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.
"The dedicated sentinels of the 71st EACS provide 24-hour per day watch over the Arabian Gulf region as well as vital tactical command and control to aircraft supporting ground operations in Operation Enduring Freedom," the colonel said. "It's a challenging mission, in a very busy airspace, and one of which I am very proud to be a part. Commanding a blended unit of active duty, Air National Guard, U.S. Army, and coalition partners from the Royal Air Force and Royal Australia Air Force is a great honor. This is a fantastic team, doing incredible work every day."
Maintenance personnel play a major role in Pyramid's mission maintaining the $30 million facility and equipment. At the center of that maintenance is the Maintenance Operations Center. The MOC is the clearing house for all maintenance on and off location, from the radars in theatre to the air conditioning units on site.
"We basically control all maintenance actions and coordinate with outside agencies to ensure the mission equipment is available for operation," said Master Sgt. Cate Mulder, 71 EACS MOC coordinator.
Radar maintenance works around the clock to provide operators a pristine radar picture. General Kee recently paid a visit to the radar maintainers at one of the deployed radar sites.
"(I) was very impressed by this team of Air National Guardsmen who have been doing this kind of work at deployed locations across the AOR as well as years ago in South America," General Kee said. "These folks know their system and have been ready-to-go volunteers for many years. What a privilege it is to serve with these kinds of spirited, can-do Airmen."
The 71st EACS is currently made up mostly from Airmen deployed from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, and the Utah ANG, but Airmen from eight other units and coalition partners from Australia and England round out the team, combining experience from all parts of the globe.
The RAAF and the RAF have Airmen augmenting the Americans providing valuable experience to the team. RAAF Flt. Sgt. Andy Peate, air surveillance technician deployed from No 41 Wing, RAAF Base Williamtown, said he enjoys playing a role in imparting knowledge to crewmembers.
"OEF is a war that changes daily and rapidly. It's a very dynamic environment in which to work," said Sergeant Peate. "It is important for operators to adapt to those changes and support the team."