Condor’s Enduring War

Air National Guard RC-26B Condors have provided overhead surveillance support in US Central Command’s area of operations during more than five years of continuous deployment to the region, according to Air Guard officials. Since its stand up in 2007, the 45th Expeditionary Special Operations Squadron—comprising Guardsmen from 11 states—has amassed 42,000 combat hours in some 9,400 sorties, providing coverage over Iraq and Afghanistan for 64 straight months, according to a release from the New York Air Guard’s 174th Attack Wing in Syracuse. “We press forward day in and out with one purpose: to bring our guys home and ensure the bad guys don’t go home,” said 45th ESOS Commander Lt. Col. Scott Ritchie. The all-volunteer force originally deployed for a year in response to an urgent CENTCOM request. Guardsmen adapted the counternarcotics aircraft to battlefield intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, spawning what became the Air Force’s subsequent MC-12 Liberty platform. These Air Guardsmen also developed tactics for the MC-12 and formed the Liberty’s initial training cadre, according to the Dec. 2 release. (Hancock report by Lt. Col. Michael Kem)