Thursday, June 11, 2009

US Air Force MC-12 Flies 1st Combat Mission

The first MC-12 Liberty aircraft in-theater flies its first combat sortie June 10 from Joint Base Balad, Iraq. A new Air Force medium-altitude manned special-mission turboprop aircraft, the MC-12 provides real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability and supports coalition and joint ground forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elizabeth Rissmiller.)

Dispatches from the Front:

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq, June 11, 2009 -- The Air Force's newest intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft flew its first combat sortie June 10 over Iraq.

The MC-12 Liberty, assigned to the 362nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, arrived in Iraq June 8 and took off from Joint Base Balad at approximately 2:30 p.m. local time for a four-hour mission.

"This is truly a success story," said Brig. Gen. Brian T. Bishop, the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. "Our mission here is to deliver combat airpower and overwatch to the joint fight in-theater, and the MC-12 brings a huge ISR capability to employ in support of the ground commander."

"This is the first combat mission for the 362nd ERS, and it was a huge success," said Col. Mike Fantini, the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group commander. "The milestone continues the extraordinary program to push more ISR capability to the joint-force commander."

Landing at approximately 6:20 p.m. local time, the four-person crew was all smiles after completing the historic sortie.

"It feels good being out here and doing something good for the warfighter," said Capt. Jason Goodale, the pilot.

"The crew was great," the Sioux Falls, S.D., said the native deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. "We performed like we trained. It is great to be part of something that is bringing a unique feature to ground forces."

Flying alongside Captain Goodale were Lt. Col. Phillip Stewart, the mission commander deployed from Langley AFB, Va., and a native of Silver Spring, Md.; and the two sensor operators: Senior Master Sgt. Bruce Hunter, deployed from Offutt AFB, Neb., and a native of Rock Springs, Wy.; and Staff Sgt. Shaun Nelson.

"It was a great mission," Colonel Stewart said. "It couldn't have gone any better."

"It feels really good to validate the training we went through," he added. "I'm extraordinarily proud of (the Airmen of the 362nd ERS). They are a tremendous group of Airmen. All of them volunteered to come to a brand-new program not knowing what to expect because they believe in the mission and they believe in the men and women that we are protecting on the ground."

Designed to augment information gathered by other intelligence-collection capabilities operating in-theater, the MC-12 provides real-time full-motion video and signals intelligence and allow military leaders to make battlefield decisions.

"It's an awesome mission," said Sergeant Nelson, deployed from Tinker AFB, Okla., and a native of Lenox, S.D. "I think we are all excited to be a part of it. It's a big capability, and it's nice to be able to bring this capability to more and more of the troops on the ground. The job satisfaction is amazing out here. You know you're making a difference. You know you're helping the guys on the ground. That's what we are here to do."

(Report by Staff Sgt. Dilia Ayala, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs.)

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