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In Command and Control of the Air War

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)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Five members of the 103rd Air and Space Operations Group are reaching the end of successful deployments to the U.S. Air Force Central's Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Southwest Asia.

Serving as the operational bridge that integrates and synchronizes strategic decisions to tactical level execution, the CAOC is comprised of a vast array of people, programs and processes ready to execute day-to-day combined air and space operations and provide rapid reaction, positive control, coordination and de-confliction of weapons systems. The deployed members of the 103rd AOG are doing their part to help provide the command and control of airpower throughout Iraq, Afghanistan and 18 other nations.

Lt. Col. Herbert Ludwig has been serving as the Chief of Combat Operations at the CAOC since mid September. Ludwig and his team of approximately 50 operations floor personnel are charged with ensuring the successful execution of the hundreds of daily air sorties being conducted in the skies above the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility.

By his fifth month, at the CAOC, Ludwig had led the execution of, "over 14,000 combat sorties, and 950 shows-of-force in support of more than 1500 instances of friendly ground forces in contact with the enemy," said Ludwig.

"I am very proud of the fact that I am defending my country and doing whatever I can to contribute to the ongoing effort in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Maj. John Saunders is serving as the Chief of Strategy Guidance and also serves as a strategic planner in the CAOC's Strategy Division. Saunders is responsible for publishing the Air Operations Directive which takes the strategic objectives of senior leadership and injects them into the efforts of the CAOC planners and those that work on the operations floor guiding decisions on the application airpower.

"My responsibilities deal with the longer range plans for the various air operations throughout the USCENTCOM AOR," said Saunders. "It's good to be 'back in the fight' and doing my part."

Maj. Richard Mastalerz deployed as the Air Refueling Control Team Chief and leads a team of 10 refueling experts in ensuring success for the overall air refueling plan, execution and assessment for operations over Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Being here has been a super experience," said Mastalerz. "I know that my actions here have made an impact; it is an absolute fulfilling experience!"

Tech. Sgt. Carmaleta Lane is deployed as a Watch Controller, responsible for the monitoring and reporting of the success rates of daily air operations in the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility. Lane provides regular briefings, operations summaries and reports that support the efforts of the CAOC's Strategy and Assessment Team.

"It's an honor and privilege to serve and I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of such a dynamic team; working with our coalition partners is also very rewarding," said Lane. "[I am] very proud to be part of the 103rd. Our unit has a good reputation here, and I found that I was well prepared for the mission."

Tech. Sgt. Marie Colomer works as a member of the CAOC Weather Support Team, providing up-to-date weather data and weather briefs to the entire theater.

"This is my first deployment to Southwest Asia; I am very proud to be here," said Colomer. "It is affording me the opportunity to use all my many hours of training and see how this training places a dynamic daily impact on the global struggle against terrorism."

"You asked how I felt about being here and contributing, my response only leads to the [Airman's] creed," said Colomer. "'I am an American Airman. I am a Warrior, Guardian of Freedom and Justice. I have answered my Nation's Call.'"

The team has already started to return home, with the bulk of them scheduled to touch down on Connecticut soil before mid-April. But as their inevitable return home rapidly approaches, they remain focused on their tasks at hand.

"Sadly, we are reminded too often that we are battling a determined enemy as the base holds "fallen warrior" ceremonies, as those that made the ultimate sacrifice pass through here on their way home," said Saunders. "It should be clear to everyone in the Connecticut Air National Guard that our mission is critical and lives do hang in the balance, so we should strive to be the absolute best at what we do."