Airmen on the hunt: RPA crews test skills during competition

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By Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing / Published July 07, 2014


An MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper taxi to the runway in preparation for take-off June 13, 2014, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev.. The aircraft are flown under the 432nd Wing, which trains pilots, sensor operators, and other remotely piloted aircraft crewmembers, and conducts combat surveillance and attack operations worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen)


Staff Sgt. Trung Dinh, left, and Senior Airman Devin Milburn attach a GBU-12 Paveway laser guided bomb onto an MQ-9 Reaper during a load crew competition June 30, 2014, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The competition consists of two three-man teams from different aircraft maintenance units competing against each other in order to build skills and promote camaraderie. Dinh is a 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew chief and Milburn is a 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron support technician. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen)


Staff Sgt. William aims a laser onto a target during the third annual 432nd Wing’s Wing Hunt competition June 30, 2014, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Multiple remotely piloted aircraft squadrons participate in the competition to train and demonstrate their skills. William is a MQ-9 Reaper sensor operator from the 138th Attack Squadron, Syracuse, N.Y. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shad Eidson)

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CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) --

Airmen from 17 different squadrons participated in the third annual 432nd Wing Hunt here, June 27- July 2.

The remotely piloted aircraft crews, which fall under the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing, were tested on their tactical skills in both the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper, using real-world scenarios during the competition.

During the annual event, RPA crews train for a mission set that is rarely practiced or executed, while also integrating and practicing fundamental tactics with other squadrons from around the 432nd AEW.

"Wing Hunt is essentially a realistic training scenario for the crews to know what to expect in the future," said Capt. Marcus, the 432nd Operations Support Squadron MQ-9 branch chief. "We took realistic training and added a competition, so the crews can earn bragging rights for their units."

The RPA crews were handpicked by their squadron leaders as the best of the best to compete in both MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper employments. These crews consisted of pilots, sensor operators and intelligence Airmen, some of whom flew their mission from their home state via remote split operations.

"Out of the 17 AEW squadrons that participated in this year's Wing Hunt, seven of those units were based outside of the local area and had crews travel to Creech (AFB) to participate," said Capt. William, the 432nd Wing weapons and tactics assistant flight commander.

The skills of each crew were tested on every facet of the mission, to include: mission planning; briefing; flying; execution and precision of AGM-114 Hellfire missile and GBU-12 Paveway laser guided bomb strikes in a given time; and the debrief processes. These tests included obtaining all necessary information; learning about potential threats and identifying how big those threats were; preparing ways to mitigate said threats; executing the mission; and debriefing the crews post-flight.

"This year we tried to make it as realistic as possible so the crews can go back to their squadrons and teach others what they need to know to be prepared for what they might encounter in the future," Marcus said.

Wing Hunt provided an opportunity for geographically separated units to test their skills as well as learn and apply training that can be passed on to those at their home base.

"The event was beneficial for both me and my pilot because it got us involved with other units, coordinating, developing plans and accomplishing more complex tasks with single objectives," said Staff Sgt. William, a sensor operator from the 138th Attack Squadron, in Syracuse, New York. "The training we received is invaluable to the success and progress of our missions in the future."

The annual event put the skills of the RPA crews to the test, but also provided useful training for future operations and promoted camaraderie between all participating units.

"Overall the event was a success," Marcus said. "It demonstrates our capabilities and teaches the Airmen how to properly employ in future environments."

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