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News | Oct. 29, 2010

JBER AWACS reunite with old friends

By Airman 1st Class Christopher Gross JBER PAO

It has been more than 40 years since the three squadrons making up the 551st Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing have been united.

Since they parted ways from Otus Air Force Base, Mass., in 1969, the 962nd Airborne Air Control Squadron from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the 961st AACS from Kadena Air Base, Japan, and the 960th AACS from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., have never worked in the same location until they gathered again in support of Valiant Shield from Sept. 10 to Sept. 21, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

Valiant Shield is a joint exercise usually held once every three years, which the 962nd normally participates in, and exercises theater capabilities.

"The biggest takeaway was being the lead for three AWACS squadrons that folded under one hat," said Lt. Col. Michael Mote, the 962nd AACS commander.

Mote said he felt his squadron was the logistical footprint for how the exercise happened, being they took the lead on both the maintenance and the operations side.

He gave kudos to his maintainers, saying their work was "tremendous," for ensuring the mission happened, enabling a 100 percent completion rate on sortie completion.

According to the colonel, the AWACS plays a crucial part in the training venue and real-world scenarios.

"We ensure the fighters are allocated to the proper targets, we ensure that the fighters get to the proper tankers so that they can get the gas they need to maintain station time. We track the weapon usage and ensure we got enough weapons airborne," Mote said. "Bottom line, our guys are doing the brain power."

Senior Master Sgt. Jeffrey Dent took the maintenance lead for the exercise and he said he felt one of the biggest reasons for the success was due to the team's cohesion.

Dent said the key ingredient for their success was 100 percent teamwork and unity.

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Niziolek, 962nd AWACS crew chief, added what he thought was the most beneficial part of the exercise for maintainers. He found it interesting that even though it was the same airframe, each one coming from a different location came with its own special needs.

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