News>Predator training unit checks out at Holloman
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Staff Sgt. Clifford Ferrero, 432nd Maintenance Group, Detachment 1, marshals in an MQ-1 Predator after it lands here Sept. 10 from its first official flight out of the base. With the flight, the 432nd Wing, Detachment 5, reached initial operational capacity at Holloman. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Means)
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Staff Sgt. Clifford Ferrero, 432nd Maintenance Group, Detachment 1, inspects the MQ-1 Predator after it landed here Sept. 10 from its first official flight out of the base. With the flight, the 432nd Wing, Detachment 5, reached initial operational capacity at Holloman. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Means)
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Col. Kevin Robbins, 49th Fighter Wing vice commander, briefs a crowd of local media, distinguished visitors and members and their families of the 432nd Wing Detachment 5 here Sept. 10 after the MQ-1 Predator returned from its first official flight out of the base. With the flight, Detachment 5, reached initial operational capacity at Holloman. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Means)
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- An MQ-1 Predator returns to the base after its first official flight Sept. 10. With the flight, the 432nd Wing, Detachment 5, reached initial operational capacity at Holloman. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Means)
by Staff Sgt. Sanjay Allen
49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
9/12/2009 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The 432nd Wing, Detachment 5, reached initial operational capacity with the MQ-1 Predator here Sept. 10 after the 432nd Wing at Creech AFB, Nev., and the 49th Fighter Wing completed all the testing and requirements needed to fly at Holloman.
Until recently, the 432nd Wing was the only MQ-1 formal training unit location. Base support limitations at Creech made it impossible to expand the training capacity to keep up with planned weapons system growth. The new formal training unit at Holloman will provide the increased training capacity at a base well-equipped to support additional training activities. Ultimately, all MQ-1 and MQ-9 Reaper training will take place here by fiscal year 2012.
"It's really all that's important," said Col. Greg Christ, 432nd Wing, Creech AFB vice commander. "The training mission coming to Holloman allows Creech to concentrate on the war and Holloman to concentrate on training.
"In the long term, it's going to create a lot more pilots and sensor operators than we would have had at Creech," said Colonel Christ. "When we separate them we're both able to do them better."
Lt. Col. Ryan Sherwood, Detachment 5 commander, also talked about the push to get more combat air patrols, or CAPs, in the skies of the areas of responsibility to support the joint forces on the ground.
Colonel Sherwood explained that there was an interest in getting more training for more pilots and more sensor operators out there to the combat Air Forces. And the only way to do that was to increase our capability.
"We're immediately able to train more pilots and sensors," he added. "Combat commanders are requiring more CAPS and they need them yesterday, so we want to be able to increase that pipeline of students to get them to the fight as quickly as we can."
Moving the training to Holloman means there will be more people assigned to the base and more people transitioning through the base.
The addition of Detachment 5 will bring 100 permanent party personnel to the base and the detachment expects to train more than 80 Airmen to be combat ready in fiscal year 2010. The training lasts approximately two and a half months with an additional two weeks of follow-on training, which is specialized for the specific unit they are assigned to. The goal is to have combat ready pilots and sensor operators to the fight within three and a half months, Colonel Sherwood said.
"We're going to train those guys to immediately step into combat," said Colonel Sherwood. "It gives those combatant commanders ... that persistence airborne to watch a target as long as they need to or to engage it if need be and they're saving lives on the ground."
Saving lives on the ground, being the most important capability of the MQ-1, Colonel Christ shared a story about convoy patrol, one of the many missions the Predator takes part in, that may not be very glamorous but shows the amount of trust placed within the Predator and its crews.
Two hours before sunset, a U.S. Army convoy was traveling from one point to another through an extremely dangerous part of Afghanistan south of Kandahar. They were two hours away from their destination when the last vehicle in the convoy suffered a flat tire.
The convoy commander radioed the Predator crew and asked if they could stay with the crippled truck while the crew changed the tire and the convoy continued to move south toward the forward operating base.
The Predator obliged and quietly circled above as the Soldiers began to change the tire. An hour and a half went by and the Predator's crew heard nothing from the truck. Precious minutes crept by and nothing. Finally the truck radioed to the Predator to inform them that the lug nuts were frozen and it would be another half hour before they could get the tire changed.
Now dark, the truck sped off to catch the rest of their convoy, moving so quickly the Predator actually struggled to keep up, and all of a sudden the truck drove off into a ditch, came up on the other side and came to a stop. Tick tick. Tick tick. Tick tick, time crept along -- Nothing. The Predator's crew frantically scanned the area for would-be attackers thinking the driver may have been shot, to find nothing.
The truck radioed the Predator to inform them the driver fell asleep at the wheel. The driver and the rest of the Soldiers on the truck had been awake for 28 hours at this point. He told the Predator crew that the rest of his Soldiers in the truck were suffering from the same sleeplessness and could not drive either. He asked if the Predator could find a safe place for them and keep watch so they could get some rest.
The Predator's crew took them two clicks down the road and two clicks into a field and silently patrolled the hostile grounds they slept on from the sky for six hours.
When they awoke they frantically called the Predator to find they were still keeping watch over them. The Predator never blinked, it stayed vigilant and kept a close eye on their brothers at arms.
"The mission of the (remotely piloted vehicle), right now certainly in Afghanistan and Iraq is all about, and is only about, the troops on the ground," said Colonel Christ.
"It provides persistence, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for long endurance over the battle field," he added. "However the commander on the ground wants to use this asset, he has it for long periods of time."
With the capabilities the Predator brings to the fight, it is sure to be around for a long time.
"The RPVs are here to stay and it's great to be here at Holloman, where they have helped us out so much and be able to integrate at this base with the F-22s, the Tornados, the tests, just like we would down range, it's a really great experience for us," said Colonel Sherwood.