ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
A new era is officially underway at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.
On Feb. 13, the 728th Battle Control Management Squadron was activated inside the Century of Flight building at the Museum of Aviation. It was there the Airmen took their place in Air Force history, marking a redirection of the Defense Department’s strategy.
The 728th BMCS will provide command and control of aircraft in U.S. Central Command by performing 24/7 real-time radar surveillance along with airspace deconfliction, air-refueling positioning and tactical reconnaissance.
Lt. Col. Joshua Gulbranson assumed command of the newly activated squadron.
“I love this country, our constitution and our Air Force,” he said. “I can’t think of a greater honor than to be entrusted with America’s sons and daughters and leading them in the effort of preserving peace for generations.”
The 728th BMCS will eventually take over the duties of the 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, which is known as “Kingpin.” The 727th EACS currently operates from Shaw AFB, South Carolina.
“The future of command and control starts with you,” Gulbranson said to his Airmen at the activation ceremony. “With threats evolving and the complexities of the battlefield increasingly changing at an exponential pace, a lot will be demanded of us in the next few years to adapt and become a more resilient force.”
With the divestment of the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft, the new squadron brings together former JSTARS Airmen who were with the 116th and 461st Air Control Wings.
“What we have are former aviators converted into a different Air Force Specialty Code that’s still battle management,” said Senior Master Sgt. Zachary Baumgardner, 728th BMCS senior enlisted leader. “With JSTARS, the crews had to fly to a location to do reconnaissance missions. Now we are building a new infrastructure for digital technology, which will allow us to perform the same tasks in a virtual setting here on U.S. soil with air battle managers and mission system operators.”
Baumgardner was one of many people working behind the scenes helping with the transition.
“I was brought in a year ago to help build the foundation,” he said. “To see this come to fruition and see them put those patches on comes with some emotional investment. It is very exciting.”
Also playing a major role in this change over is the 330th Combat Training Squadron at Robins.
The 330th CTS is responsible for helping train the new air battle managers and mission system operators on the Battle Management Training NEXT system.
According to Maj. Daniel Van Stone, 330th CTS training chief, the BMTN system will provide the next generation of Airmen at Robins with an additional method of building proficiency and confidence in their jobs.
“BMTN allows Airmen an opportunity to practice command and control battle management on a simulated system, which replicates what air-to-air control looks like,” said Van Stone. “It’s a chance to practice how to communicate on the radio. This artificial intelligence listens to what they are saying, where they position their mouse, and even where their eyes are positioned on the screen.”
Tech. Sgt. Seth Anspaugh, 330th CTS standard and evaluations noncommissioned officer in charge, is a former JSTARS senior director technician. He started familiarizing himself with the system last December. He is training for his new role as a weapons director and instructor to mission systems operators.
“I’ve never used a system like this, so it was a bit of a learning curve,” said Anspaugh. “Now I am more familiar with it and think it is a great system. I’m hoping that future students will get as much use from the system as I have. Overall, I think it is a good way for Airmen to ease into their training in a relatively low threat setting.”
This squadron’s activation is a milestone event that is a part of four new missions coming to Robins. The other missions include: an Airborne Command and Control Squadron, flying the E-11 A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node – BACN aircraft; an Advanced Battle Management System – Family of Systems; and a Spectrum Warfare Group.
“This is an opportunity for these Airmen to grow, learn and be a part of big Air Force’s mission of being able to defend our nation,” said Col. Michelle Carns, 461st Air Control Wing commander. “I think it speaks to their spirit of innovation and commitment. So, from my perspective, this is a chance of a lifetime for these Airmen to do something completely unchartered in history.”
The 728th BMCS will transition to Robins in phases and is expected to be fully operational by fiscal year 2025.