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First-timers, seasoned 103rd Air and Space Operations Group members set to spend holidays at CAOC

Maj. Robert O'Connor, 2nd Lt. Chad Montague, Master Sgt. Dan Hughes and Staff Sgt. Tim D'Amico of the 103rd Air intelligence Squadron and Master Sgt. Ben Abbot and Master Sgt. Pete Demakis of the 103rd Air Operations Squadron stand with their team members from the 710th Combat Operations Squadron and the 609th Air Operations Center Detachment 1 in front of the Combined Air Operations Center, Southwest Asia, early September 2009.  The team was tasked to field test command and control capabilities there.  (photo courtesy of 2nd Lt. Chad Montague)

Maj. Robert O'Connor, 2nd Lt. Chad Montague, Master Sgt. Dan Hughes and Staff Sgt. Tim D'Amico of the 103rd Air intelligence Squadron and Master Sgt. Ben Abbot and Master Sgt. Pete Demakis of the 103rd Air Operations Squadron stand with their team members from the 710th Combat Operations Squadron and the 609th Air Operations Center Detachment 1 in front of the Combined Air Operations Center, Southwest Asia, early September 2009. The team was tasked to field test command and control capabilities there. (photo courtesy of 2nd Lt. Chad Montague)

Maj. John Saunders, Tech. Sgt. Carmaleta Lane, Lt. Col. Herbert Ludwig, Maj. Richard Mastalerz and Tech. Sgt. Marie Colomer, all of the 103rd Air and Space Operations Group, take a moment from their duties to pose for a group photo outside the U.S. Air Force Central's Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Southwest Asia. The five members of the Connecticut Air National Guard are reaching the end of successful deployments in direct support of the command and control of airpower throughout Iraq, Afghanistan and 18 other nations.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dillon White, USAFCENT Public Affairs)

Maj. John Saunders, Tech. Sgt. Carmaleta Lane, Lt. Col. Herbert Ludwig, Maj. Richard Mastalerz and Tech. Sgt. Marie Colomer, all of the 103rd Air and Space Operations Group, take a moment from their duties to pose for a group photo outside the U.S. Air Force Central's Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Southwest Asia. The five members of the Connecticut Air National Guard are reaching the end of successful deployments in direct support of the command and control of airpower throughout Iraq, Afghanistan and 18 other nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dillon White, USAFCENT Public Affairs)

BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, East Granby, Conn. -- A dozen Airmen from the 103rd Air and Space Operations Group are deployed to the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Southwest Asia and most of them will be spending their holidays providing a wide array of direct support to the ongoing air war in the skies over the region. For many of them, this is their first deployment.

"I will be missing all the holidays," said Senior Airman Brian Pagoni, assigned as a video operations technician on his first deployment. "But so far I am enjoying it and would recommend deploying here to anyone that wants to make a difference."

With a strong mission focus and a pride for their home state, the Connecticut Airmen are enjoying camaraderie and high morale despite the separation from friends and family.

"This was a great place for a first deployment," said Senior Airman Nichole Leblanc, assigned as an air tasking order re-planner during her deployment to the CAOC. "It's nice [to] have a number of people from our unit over here at the same time."

"With all the people we have here now, it's hard not to notice the 103rd," said Senior Airman Christopher Keogan, interface control technician tasked with the management of tactical data links at the CAOC.

The deployed Airmen are contributing to and reinforcing a positive reputation the 103rd Air and Space Operations Group has been developing for more than a year through their constant presence at the CAOC the group has maintained since July, 2009.

"From CCO's to Generals, I've heard nothing but praise for our manning out here," said Senior Airman Ryan Roper, assigned as part of the Combined Forces Air Component Commander's Watch, a team that organizes, updates and disseminates a wide range of data regarding coalition and joint air and space operations across the 20-nation U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility to keep decision makers well informed at the CAOC.

While many of the AOG members are new to deploying, some of the Airmen are repeat visitors to the region but their enthusiasm and excitement for the mission are no less impressive.

"This is a great place to sharpen your AOC skills and make a real difference in the war effort," said Master Sgt. Peter Demakis, a senior offensive duty officer technician who has deployed to the region four times. "I'm proud every time we support troops in contact allowing our fighting men on the ground to live to fight another day."

Senior leaders from the 103rd AOG are gaining valuable experience while contributing to the operations at the CAOC. Col. Christopher Walker, commander, 103rd Air Mobility Operations Squadron, is working closely with the air mobility chief and deputy chief, learning all the related processes within the Air Mobility Division in order to replicate the capabilities offered by the U. S. Air Forces Central Air Mobility Division.

"This is exactly what I needed to focus the steering of the 103rd AMOS,' said Walker.
Another senior leader from the AOG, Lt. Col. Herbert Ludwig, is deployed as part of a four-person team ensuring the daily and weekly special instructions (SPINS) for aircrews are published correctly and on time. His team is responsible for updating SPINS used in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and in operations in the area of the Horn of Africa and Arabian Gulf.

"I'm very proud of the fact that we have had a tremendous impact on the mission at the CAOC," said Ludwig.

"The CTANG has been and continues to play a very important and needed part in this mission by providing talented and qualified manpower providing relief to the active-duty force."

Relief that has been non-stop since July 22, 2010. The 103rd AOG has had a member present for duty at the CAOC everyday since 2010.