Deployed Tinker Airman excels in joint tasking

Senior Master Sgt. Kevin McRae stands with the mine roller and the crew after the truck was struck by an IED. Sergeant McRae traveled with the Route Clearance Package from the Kentucky National Guard as on scene support element. (Air Force photo)

Senior Master Sgt. Kevin McRae stands with the mine roller and the crew after the truck was struck by an IED. Sergeant McRae traveled with the Route Clearance Package from the Kentucky National Guard as on scene support element. (Air Force photo)

TASK FORCE ZABUL -- Senior Master Sgt. Kevin McRae was one of many Airman assigned to a Joint Expeditionary Tasking, an Army assignment filled by an Air Force member, but his expertise as a senior surveillance technician led him on many more adventures than the typical JET assignment.

Sergeant McRae, 20-year Air Force veteran was deployed here from the 552nd Operation Support Squadron at Tinker when the joint tasking opportunity arose.

"I saw the tasking and immediately started to research the position and the job," said Sergeant McRae. "I thought this would be a great opportunity for me."

This opportunity landed him assigned to Task Force Zabul, in Qalat City.

Sergeant McRae's primary job was to conduct initial sampling, for the MMBJ/Duke he would go out on patrol after an IED had blown and troubleshoot what went wrong if the IED was radio detonated. From the post blast assessment, Sergeant McRae could use the information gathered to exploit other RCIEDs in the area.

Proficient on the MMBJ, Duke and the ACRON systems, Sergeant McRae was the resident expert on all jamming capabilities.

His secondary job was to produce Joint Tactical Air Request. This requests aircraft to fly over a certain area and pre-detonate RCIEDs.

"I work very closely with the operations and the intelligence cell," he said. "I make the request based on past intelligence and future operations."

The job was getting slow, so when the Kentucky RCP offered him a ride-along it turned into an entirely new experience.

During the fall and winter when historically the fighting slows, Sergeant McRae was offered the opportunity to ride with the Route Clearance Package from the Kentucky National Guard.

From that mission forward, Sergeant McRae was a permanent member of RCP. Traveling with the unit as a support element, very few Airmen can say they have combat experience similar to that of Sergeant McRae.

Most of the missions that he would travel on the RCP was tasked to clear routes in the province for other units to maneuver and travel safely. He has traveled throughout Zabul, through rough terrain, river valleys and the highest mountains in the province. It wasn't until the end of his tour that things began to get hot.

In two separate occasions traveling to Taliban controlled territory, Sergeant McRae involved in five IED strikes or finds, topped with small arms and RPG fire.

"Those trips really put things into perspective," he said. "When you watch a teammate's vehicle, your first thought is, 'I hope everyone is OK,' then you realize that there are people trying to kill us."

Thankfully no one was injured.

Sergeant McRae has also been able to operate all systems in the unarmored vehicles, his tactics while a truck commander led to a new standard operating procedure.

To avoid escalation of force incidents, Sergeant McRae instituted the idea of shining the LED lights and green laser pen at the oncoming traffic before shooting a pen flare or a warning shot. While using those tactics, no warning shot or pen flare had to be fired.

During his deployment in Zabul, Sergeant McRae worked with three services and units from three countries. Mainly working with the US Army, he refers to himself as the 'blue thumb in the sea of green.'

"It truly is a joint fight out here," he said. "We are all working toward the same end state, it doesn't matter what uniform you wear, it matters that we are all on the same team."

Sergeant McRae left Zabul province with experiences unlike any other. This was something that he has never done and not a lot of other people will get to experience.

"I have a better understanding of each service and what we all contribute to the fight. The Air Force owns the skies, and in the skies we support the ground fighters. Being on the ground makes you appreciate what the Army/ Navy/ Marines bring to the fight. When I was on the ground, I truly appreciated everything that goes into winning this fight. I began seeing things from a joint perspective, and I was able to see the fight from a different angle."