Members of the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, an EC-130H Compass Call unit operating from Bagram AB, Afghanistan, last month surpassed 10,000 combat flight hours in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The airmen amassed the impressive hour tally over a period of four years starting with their first deployment from Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., in March 2004. “There are only 14 of these aircraft in the Air Force,” said Maj. James Bands, an operations officer with the squadron, of the EC-130Hs, which are principally communications-jamming platforms. He continued, “So it’s taken four years of constant flying at about 2,000 to 3,000 hours on one aircraft a year in order to accomplish this.” Many of the unit’s airmen have deployed multiple times. Take Capt. Jared Howard, for example, a navigator, who is on his fourth deployment and has more than 900 combat hours. Since normally only one or two EC-130Hs deploy at a time, much responsibility falls upon the shoulders of the maintainers to keep the aircraft flying. “The 10,000 flying hours are probably represented by 80,000 maintenance hours,” said MSgt. Carla West, production superintendent with the 41st Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit. Yet the 41st EECS boasts a mission capable rate exceeding many other airframes in theater. (Bagram report by SSgt. Rachel Martinez)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.