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New Hurlburt intel squadron turns aerial eye on terrorists

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Gary Emery
  • Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs
Terrorists and their supporters around in the world will soon be under the gaze of a powerful "unblinking eye" providing information on their whereabouts to a "brain" at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Note to the bad guys: You will not like the attention.

The reactivation of the 11th Intelligence Squadron here August 1marks a milestone for Air Force Special Operations Command, which gains its first intelligence squadron. The 11th IS, commanded by Lt. Col. David Hambleton, is assigned to Air Force Special Operations Forces, AFSOC's warfighting headquarters.

The squadron's mission is to process, exploit and disseminate to commanders information gathered by AFSOC's MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicles and other airborne intelligence and surveillance sources, Lt. Col. Hambleton said. The Predator is a medium-altitude, long-endurance, remotely piloted aircraft operated by the 3rd Special Operations Squadron at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada.

Operators at Creech AFB use remote controls to fly Predators anywhere in the world, around the clock. That capability, when fully realized, will create what Army General Doug Brown, commander of United States Special Operations Command, calls an "unblinking eye" for special operations forces.

But even an unblinking eye is worthless without a brain to process the information the eye sees, said Col. Timothy Leahy, AFSOF vice commander. That's where the 11th IS comes in, he said.

"We're going to extract intel value from data streams coming off (reconnaissance aircraft), figure out what the bad guys are doing and provide information to special ops commanders so they can make combat decisions," Lt. Col. Hambleton said. "Basically, the 3rd SOS will provide the data and we'll tailor it for the SOF customer forward."

Special operations forces require SOF-specific intelligence, Lt. Col. Hambleton said. So the entire data gathering- analysis-combat commander chain is specialized and unique compared to the way other Air Force commands process and disseminate data, he said.

For instance, AFSOC is the only major command where the intelligence weapons system, called the distributed common ground system, works hand-in-hand with the air operations center. In AFSOC, both the DCGS and AOC report to the AFSOF commander, Col. Michael Callan.

"I'm very excited to see the 11 IS a reality," Col. Callan said. "Many dedicated members of the AFSOF and AFSOC staffs have worked very hard to make this day happen.

"Having the 11 IS provide dedicated intelligence support to our warfighters will make us better able to find, fix and finish our adversaries," he said. "I welcome Lt. Col. Hambleton and his squadron members to AFSOF".

In the Global War on Terrorism, tracking down elusive enemies is akin to what Lt. Gen. Michael W. Wooley, AFSOC commander, calls "finding the proverbial needle not in a haystack, but hiding among other needles." Intel specialists of the 11th IS will "be able to discern what that needle among needles is doing," Col. Leahy said.

"Once the operators of the 11th Intelligence Squadron find and fix the enemy, the world's best special operators, riding in the back of AFSOC aircraft, will go in and finish them," he said. 

11th Intelligence Squadron at a glance

Commander: Lt Col. David Hambleton

Mission Statement: Plan, direct and conduct multi-source intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasking, processing, exploitation and dissemination operations in support of USSOCOM, the Joint Special Operations Task Force Commander and the Joint Special Operations Air Component Commander. Provide integrated, flexible, multi-discipline intelligence satisfying warfighter requirements for all phases of military operations.

Heritage: The 11th IS traces its heritage to both the WWII-era 5th Photo Technical Sq. and the 1950s-era 99th Reconnaissance Technical Sq. Those two units were merged in 1984, forming the 11th Reconnaissance Technical Sq., which remained inactive until its redesignation and reactivation at Hurlburt Field on August 1, 2006, as the 11th IS.

Manpower: The squadron has about 38 members at present. The unit will grow to its full strength of 135 members by Fiscal 2008.

Location: The unit will be located in the AFSOC headquarters building until a new squadron facility is built in Fiscal 2008.