A Lot of Sorties to Control:

Nearly 180 airmen of the 728th Air Control Squadron, Eglin AFB, Fla., just came home after having spent the last five months monitoring Iraq’s airspace. (It wasn’t their first tour.) While supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, they were in control of nearly 26,000 combat sorties—the most any Air Expeditionary Force rotation has handled in OIF so far. SSgt. Mike Meares reports that they also helped provide close air support for troops in conflict and aided reconnaissance patrols and directed traffic for tankers preparing to refuel aircraft. SrA. Amanda Hoffman, electronic protections technician, told the Daily Report that her job was to ensure that the 277,000 miles of airspace were clear. “I primarily monitored the radar and made sure it ran smoothly and kept the airspace clear of clutter,” she said. TSgt. Christopher Massey, who works on computer systems operations, described the deployment as “nonstop.” “I provided military net relay chat for communications between the air control squadron and the Army personnel on the ground,” he said. This was the unit’s fourth tour of duty in Iraq; many of the airmen had been deployed for OIF from May to October 2006 before beginning this tour in January.