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Fight and win: Clear communication key to victory

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Gary McCollum
  • 3rd SOS commander
The 3rd Special Operations Squadron, with the capabilities of the MQ-1 Predator, provides an unmatched level of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to the fight.

But the Predator is simply a tool. More importantly, the 3rd SOS brings a wide range of skills to the fight.

Our ranks include traditional Air Force Special Operations Command crews with experience in MH-53 PAVE LOWs, MC-130 Talon IIs, and AC-130 gunships. The 3rd SOS also recruited aircrew from weapons systems including the C-130, CV-22 Osprey, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-15E Strike Eagle and B-1 Lancer.

To improve real-time understanding of what our onboard sensors are presenting to us, we have highly trained intelligence personnel, many with backgrounds in imagery analysis.

This diversity greatly increases the knowledge base available to everyone in the squadron. This broad knowledge has been especially useful during dynamic operations in theater. First-hand understanding of how different weapon systems in both AFSOC and Air Combat Command employ provides smoother integration during complicated missions involving multiple aircraft, all attempting to provide support to ground forces.

I believe that open integration and unrestricted lines of communication are the keys to how we are going to fight and win the Global War on Terrorism.

While there's an obvious need to secure and limit the spread of vital intelligence, there is also a legitimate requirement to share knowledge between units and organizations. The greater one's knowledge base regarding the enemy and the local environment, the easier it is to increase the overall situational awareness while conducting combat operations.

Our supported units have taken the opportunity to send leadership and other representatives to the 3rd SOS pre- and post-deployment. The discussions of how and why we operate the way we do have greatly increased our understanding of what the supported units expect from us. Also, the supported units receive an excellent overview of what we can provide to them and the steps we are taking to continually improve that support.

Recent exercises conducted on the Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., ranges have greatly bolstered our relationship with these units. The lessons learned from past and future exercises will only improve our shared ability to fight and win.

During my time learning to fly operationally, I was always taught to heed the dangers presented to me by the near threat. However, I was also taught to consider how my reactions to the near threat might eventually affect my ability to react to the next threat. The skill sets that we are developing and honing in our current fight will undoubtedly be of use to us in the next theater we engage the enemy. In the future, we may not have the level of air superiority we currently enjoy in our primary operating theater. We must continue to maintain and develop the tactics necessary to fight more traditional scenarios.

I'm not a strategic planner. When I have completed my mission for the day, I ask myself a few simple questions.

Was I able to provide actionable intelligence and/or precise fires to the supported unit? Did I do everything in my power to keep my aircraft on station as long as possible? Did I improve the lines of communication between my squadron the supported unit? Did I pass the knowledge gained today on to my fellow operators?

If I can answer yes to those questions, then I have fought and won today.