KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --
Airmen from the 62nd Expeditionary Attack Squadron continue to provide combatant commanders uninterrupted persistent attack and reconnaissance capabilities.
“Our job here at Kandahar Airfield is to launch and recover the MQ-9 Reaper,” said 1st Lt. Patrick, 62nd EATKS maintenance operations officer.
The MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily against dynamic execution targets and secondarily as an intelligence collection asset.
Its significant loiter time, wide-range sensors, multi-mode communications suite, and precision weapons – allow aircrews to perform strike, coordination, and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting, and time-sensitive targets.
Assigned to the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Creech Air Force Base, N.V., the MQ-9 has been deployed to Afghanistan for ten years, first in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and now co-tasked to support NATO’s Operation Resolute Support and the U.S. combat mission Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
“The 62nd EATKS is critical to mission success of the MQ-9 here,” said Patrick. “From KAF, we handle the take offs, then hand the aircraft over to the mission control element back at Creech AFB so that they can carry out their operations. Once the mission is complete, we land it, recover it, maintain it, and do that all over again.”
Patrick said for the 62nd EATKS to continue to have mission success, the squadron must work together as a team.
“Team work is important because unlike a traditional aircraft, where the pilot hops in the seat, takes off and he’s on his own, this aircraft routinely requires both maintenance and pilots to be hands-on at the same time,” said Patrick.
But to do that, you need great maintainers ensuring the aircraft is safe to fly.
Airman 1st Class Bryson Engholm, 62nd EATKS MQ-9 crew chief, maintains the aircraft and prepares it for missions.
“I am part of the maintenance crew and anything that comes back broken or needs fixed, that’s what I deal with,” said Engholm. “We keep the aircraft flying. When it comes down to it and there is a problem with the aircraft, it has to be someone who is knowledgeable to fix it and that’s where my expertise comes into play.”
Patrick said the 62nd EATKS delivers roughly 25% of all combat MQ-9 missions for the Air Force.
“My job here is important because without the MQ-9’s, we’re losing a huge capability for the Air Force,” said Patrick. “My job here at KAF is to drive the maintenance effort for both contractors and active duty aircraft maintainers, to ensure that we have the equipment and resources to do the job and to ensure we are effectively meeting the needs of the mission so that our MQ-9s can continue to provide both intelligence surveillance missions as well as strike capabilities to eliminate combatants.”
According to Patrick, the 62nd EATKS could not be mission successful without integrating with the pilots at Creech AFB.
“Creech AFB and their pilots play a huge role in operations here,” said Patrick. “Majority of our MQ-9 aircraft are from Creech AFB, as well as all the equipment and supplies we get. Without Creech providing the aircraft and equipment, we could not do our job here at KAF.”