Total Force wingmen enable MQ-1, MQ-9 mission

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Christian Clausen
  • 432nd Wing/432 Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

In the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper community, active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Airmen incorporate as a total force integration to provide 60 combat lines or 60 aircraft in the air, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

This team of aircrew, maintenance and other career fields ensure mission success by enabling persistent strike and reconnaissance capabilities to eliminate enemies and keep ground and coalition forces safe.

"Realistically we're one Air Force," said Col. Case Cunningham, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. "You don't see that at any place better than at Creech for the many mission sets we're executing every day."

The partnering of organizations to accomplish these mission sets provides real-time effects to support combatant commanders as well as coalition ground forces and keep friendly forces (or allies) safe.

"When I think of TFI done right, I think of seamless integration of different capabilities into the excellence of mission execution," Cunningham said. "We get organizations coming together in a way that leverages their particular strengths and we have a great partnership doing so."

The MQ-1 and MQ-9 enterprise integrates proficiencies the reserve and guard components offer such as manning, the ability to surge and provide experience in order to augment and assist the active duty. These capabilities were especially helpful when the remotely piloted aircraft enterprise first began.

"In the early days, there wasn't enough active-duty manning to do what we needed to do so the reserves stepped in to help," said Col. David, commander of the reserve 726th Operations Group. "As the community has grown, we still provide that role, but now we help with experience as well."

According to David, reserve members typically stay at their duty stations for longer periods of time and are often prior active duty, allowing them to have a high experience level.

At Creech the reserve 78th and 91st Attack Squadrons assist active-duty units in completing the assigned combat lines by providing full-time and part-time aircrews.

"I like to think of the reserves as a catcher's mitt for active-duty members who want to continue to serve but can only do it part-time," David said. "That's what we're here for. It's all about serving the mission. I think it's a good return on investment for the Air Force because rather than an active-duty member taking their experience with them, we can keep them in the fight."

The 432nd WG and 432nd AEW span across 14 states including the 12 ANG units flying the mission to provide the majority of the 60 continuous combat lines.

"I’m also the AEW commander which means, I'm responsible for coordination across the 12 ANG wings to make sure we bring combat airpower to the combatant commanders," Cunningham said. "We act as a central coordination hub for the combat lines, and it's how we get the mission done."

Creech is also home to a Nevada ANG unit, the 232nd Operations Squadron. Its mission is different from other MQ-9 guard units as it delivers manning and experience.

"We provide manpower, expertise and subject-matter experts in various career fields," said Lt. Col. Nicholas, 232nd OS commander. "We're working inside the 432nd Wing on maintenance support, mainly doing ground control station maintenance."

232nd operational aircrews are assigned to the 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron, a tenant unit testing, evaluating and certifying future MQ-9 capabilities the 432nd WG and other future RPA wings will utilize.

Bringing the different components together helps strengthen the wing and Air Force family. When flying the mission, any combination of aircrew could be used but the overall mission is the same.

"The ultimate impact of bringing all of these critical combat capabilities into one place at the same time is victory on the battlefield," Cunningham said.