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Conn. Airmen Help 727th EACS Provide Eyes, Ears Over Iraq

ALI BASE, Iraq –Master Sgt. Greg Walsh, 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, checks the antenna on top of their location at Ali Base, Iraq, Jan 26.  The 727th EACS works with Balad Air Base to provide radar and radio transmissions to aircraft on patrol in southern Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Marasky)

ALI BASE, Iraq –Master Sgt. Greg Walsh, 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, checks the antenna on top of their location at Ali Base, Iraq, Jan 26. The 727th EACS works with Balad Air Base to provide radar and radio transmissions to aircraft on patrol in southern Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Marasky)

ALI BASE, Iraq –Staff Sgt. Jesse Barna, 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, checks the transmission equipment at Ali Base, Iraq, Jan. 26.  The 727th EACS works with Balad Air Base to provide radar and radio transmissions to aircraft on patrol in southern Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Marasky)

ALI BASE, Iraq –Staff Sgt. Jesse Barna, 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, checks the transmission equipment at Ali Base, Iraq, Jan. 26. The 727th EACS works with Balad Air Base to provide radar and radio transmissions to aircraft on patrol in southern Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Marasky)

ALI BASE, Iraq –Staff Sgt. Jesse Barna, 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, monitors radar and radio signals at Ali Base, Iraq, Jan. 26.  The 727th EACS works with Balad Air Base to provide radar and radio transmissions to aircraft on patrol in southern Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Marasky)

ALI BASE, Iraq –Staff Sgt. Jesse Barna, 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, monitors radar and radio signals at Ali Base, Iraq, Jan. 26. The 727th EACS works with Balad Air Base to provide radar and radio transmissions to aircraft on patrol in southern Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Marasky)

ALI BASE, Iraq -- For U.S. military aircraft, flying missions in the Iraqi theater requires the most accurate site picture in the air and on the ground from the most sophisticated equipment in the military's inventory.

Operating that equipment is a crew of air control squadron personnel assigned here. The 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, is a deployed Air National Guard unit from the 103rd Air Control Squadron in Orange, Conn. Their mission is to be the eyes and ears in the sky for southern Iraq on a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week basis.

"We have a lot of aircraft flying over southern Iraq and sometimes they fly beyond the range of our controllers in Balad," said Master Sgt. John Saresky, 727th EACS Bravo Station, deputy chief. "What we do is maintain the circuits that provide the link between the aircraft and our controllers so they can continue to communicate with each other."

There are some aircraft that may not be able to receive data from controllers in Balad. The 727th EACS provide the radios to track those aircraft and provide that data link so pilots are able to see the radar picture and prevent accidents and mishaps. To ensure the data link is operational at all times, the squadron has maintainers to keep the equipment operational. Their main piece of equipment requires excessive training from everyone to make sure they are current and able to operate in any environment. At home station, the unit exercises frequently to prepare themselves for real-world contingencies such as this one.

The unit is constantly looking for ways to improve operations. This includes performing preventive maintenance inspections on their equipment.

"We try to minimize the down time to conduct PMIs on our system because we're a 24-hour operation, so we have to carefully schedule with the operations section," Sergeant Saresky said. "A good day for us is both circuits up and fully operational and no phone calls from Balad."