Racking Up the Hours

One of the two EC-130 Compass Call squadrons supporting Southwest Asia operations on Feb. 17 surpassed 20,000 combat flying hours, amassed over five years of continuous deployment. The 43rd Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, which hit the 17,500-hour mark in late summer 2008, provides communications jamming support to US and coalition forces in Iraq. (Its fellow EC-130 unit, the 41st EECS, operating over Afghanistan, surpassed 10,000 combat hours last fall.) Four or five deployments are not unusual among the airmen of the 43rd EECS, whose commander, Lt. Col. David Delmonaco, says the work is hard to quantify but critical. He explained, “We’re not dropping bombs, we’re not shooting bullets, but we are using this weapon system to prevent things from happening or to make things happen the enemy isn’t anticipating.” As SSgt. Andrew Weber, one of the unit’s airborne maintenance technicians, noted, “The support we provide to the ground forces is unlike anything else in the Air Force.” And those ground forces appreciate it, according to Maj. David Kendall, a 43rd EECS aircraft commander, who said, “The words ‘Compass Call’ are pretty well known around those circles.” (386th Air Expeditionary Wing report by SSgt. Thomas Doscher)