336th EFS sets tone for new phase of OIR

Aircrew members assigned to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron perform pre-flight checks prior to flying a sortie in support of Operation Inherent Resolve objectives November 3, 2017 in Southwest Asia. The squadron’s primary objective is the protection and support of Coalition forces on the ground via precision strikes and defensive counter-air operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Kleinholz)

Aircrew members assigned to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron perform pre-flight checks prior to flying a sortie in support of Operation Inherent Resolve objectives November 3, 2017 in Southwest Asia. The squadron’s primary objective is the protection and support of Coalition forces on the ground via precision strikes and defensive counter-air operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Kleinholz)

Aircrew members assigned to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron perform pre-flight checks prior to flying a sortie in support of Operation Inherent Resolve objectives November 3, 2017 in Southwest Asia. The 336th EFS is deployed from Seymour Johnson  Air Force Base, N. C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Kleinholz)

Aircrew members assigned to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron perform pre-flight checks prior to flying a sortie in support of Operation Inherent Resolve objectives November 3, 2017 in Southwest Asia. The 336th EFS is deployed from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N. C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Kleinholz)

An aircrew member assigned to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron prepares his equipment for a sortie in support of Operation Inherent Resolve objectives November 3, 2017 in Southwest Asia. The 336th EFS flies the F-15E Strike Eagle, a dual-role fighter designed to excel in both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Kleinholz)

An aircrew member assigned to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron prepares his equipment for a sortie in support of Operation Inherent Resolve objectives November 3, 2017 in Southwest Asia. The 336th EFS flies the F-15E Strike Eagle, a dual-role fighter designed to excel in both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Kleinholz)

An aircrew member assigned to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron prepares his equipment for a sortie in support of Operation Inherent Resolve objectives November 3, 2017 in Southwest Asia. The 336th EFS flies the F-15E Strike Eagle, a dual-role fighter designed to excel in both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Kleinholz)

An aircrew member assigned to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron prepares his equipment for a sortie in support of Operation Inherent Resolve objectives November 3, 2017 in Southwest Asia. The 336th EFS flies the F-15E Strike Eagle, a dual-role fighter designed to excel in both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Kleinholz)

Crews assigned to the 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron prepare F-15E Strike Eagles assigned to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron for sorties in support of Operation Inherent Resolve objectives November 7, 2017 in Southwest Asia. The 336th EFS, supported by aircraft maintenance professionals, flies combat sorties day and night -- protecting Coalition forces as they work towards the elimination of remaining ISIS fighters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Kleinholz)

Crews assigned to the 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron prepare F-15E Strike Eagles assigned to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron for sorties in support of Operation Inherent Resolve objectives November 7, 2017 in Southwest Asia. The 336th EFS, supported by aircraft maintenance professionals, flies combat sorties day and night -- protecting Coalition forces as they work towards the elimination of remaining ISIS fighters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Kleinholz)

An aircrew member assigned to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron prepares waits for clearance to taxi, prior to a sortie in support of Operation Inherent Resolve objectives November 7, 2017 in Southwest Asia. The 336th EFS arrives in the region after a recent string of major victories for Coalition forces on the ground and will look to capitalize on that momentum. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Kleinholz)

An aircrew member assigned to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron prepares waits for clearance to taxi, prior to a sortie in support of Operation Inherent Resolve objectives November 7, 2017 in Southwest Asia. The 336th EFS arrives in the region after a recent string of major victories for Coalition forces on the ground and will look to capitalize on that momentum. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Kleinholz)

An aircrew member assigned to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron prepares his weapons and survival equipment for a sortie in support of Operation Inherent Resolve objectives November 7, 2017 in Southwest Asia.  In addition to the equipment required to safely operate high-performance combat aircraft, aircrew members also carry items designed to help them survive and get to safety in the event of a mishap. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Kleinholz)

An aircrew member assigned to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron prepares his weapons and survival equipment for a sortie in support of Operation Inherent Resolve objectives November 7, 2017 in Southwest Asia. In addition to the equipment required to safely operate high-performance combat aircraft, aircrew members also carry items designed to help them survive and get to safety in the event of a mishap. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Kleinholz)

SOUTHWEST ASIA --

The first F-15E Strike Eagles assigned to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron arrived at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia late last month, kicking off a unique new phase of Operation Inherent Resolve.

 

The 336th EFS, supported and directed by the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, will serve as the primary source of air power in the region, performing targeted air strikes, defensive counter-air measures, and precision close-air support for Coalition forces on the ground.

 

“Our team is thrilled to be here doing our part to support the Coalition,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Swanson, 336th EFS commander. “We’ve been training for a long time, not only as a squadron, but as individuals as well, in order to protect our people on the ground.”

 

The “Rocketeers” arrive in the region after a recent string of victories for the Coalition, highlighted by the liberation of the Islamic State’s claimed capital, Raqqa, in late October. In the past six months, the outgoing 492nd EFS had a major impact on the fight, dropping more than 4,000 bombs and executing two air-to-air kills on adversary drones. Surrounded on all sides, and flushed out of their major strongholds, Air Force leadership expects that remaining ISIS forces will either give up or splinter off into smaller, more desperate, less predictable groups. The 336 EFS will meet the new challenge with a new approach.

 

“What the prior squadron saw, and what we’re seeing as well, is that the fight changes every single day. As it ebbs and flows, it’s important that we’re able to adapt to the mission that’s required of us,” said Swanson. “Though we may not be bombing ISIS compounds every day, there are still tens of thousands of people who need protecting from those who would do them grave harm.”

 

Though ISIS has been expelled from control in most of its former safe-havens, pockets of resistance will persist for some time. Meanwhile, the air space above the region will remain a complicated operations environment as various factions vie for influence over how the region is re-structured. Geopolitics aside, Rocketeer aircrews will remain focused on the task for which they’ve been training the past nine months.

 

“The prior squadron (492nd EFS) did a great job of reaching back to us as we worked through our training scenarios,” one 336th EFS aircrew member said. “They helped us to realize that while we may expect to drop a lot of bombs, the defensive counter-air mission set is going to be vital going forward.”

 

As this fight nears its end, the Rocketeers will look to measure their own success not by the number of bombs dropped, but by the effectiveness of their presence in all aspects; most importantly, the protection of the warfighters below.