Mission Crew Commander spends a year in the skies

Maj. Jon Williams, 963rd Expeditionary Airborne Air Control Squadron, mission crew commander, adjusts his oxygen level during pre-flight checks, Jan. 15. Major Williams reached a milestone of flying hours as an air battle manager on an E-3 Sentry with a year's worth of hours (8,760 hours). Major Williams is from Edmond, Okla. and his home station is Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian J. Ellis)

Maj. Jon Williams, 963rd Expeditionary Airborne Air Control Squadron, mission crew commander, adjusts his oxygen level during pre-flight checks, Jan. 15. Major Williams reached a milestone of flying hours as an air battle manager on an E-3 Sentry with a year's worth of hours (8,760 hours). Major Williams is from Edmond, Okla. and his home station is Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian J. Ellis)

17 Jan 2009 -- SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Maj. Jon Williams, 963rd Expeditionary Airborne Air Control Squadron mission crew commander, reached a year's worth of flying hours as an air battle manager on an E-3 Sentry here, Jan. 15.

Throughout Major Williams' 28-year career he has flown 1,102 sorties supporting the Airborne Warning and Control System mission. These sorties amassed the most flying hours since the days of the EC-121, Lockheed's propeller-driven aircraft of its class.

"We're very proud of him and we're glad to share this feat with him. He's been in this theater multiple times and he wanted to make this milestone while supporting combat operations," said Lt. Col. Robert Haines, 963rd Expeditionary Airborne Air Control Squadron commander.

Major Williams' 13.7-hour flight put him over the top and put him in the record books among active flyers. Currently he has more flying hours than any active crew member on an E-3 Sentry.

"The flight went great, it took a long time; we had a long ways to go and a lot of things to do," said Major Williams.

As a crew commander at the only base in Southwest Asia housing AWACS, Major Williams surveys air space and coordinates with air and ground forces for reconnaissance and air support. Through airborne radar and communications air crew are able to position assets on target to neutralize the terrorists effort.

"He's a tremendous leader and mentor to the crew members who have not deployed here before, I'm glad that he's here to help them improve their support to this operation," said Lieutenant Colonel Haines

The benefits to his squadron also bring personal benefits.

"I feel good. It's just like any sortie," said Major Williams. "It is a milestone and every little bit you do, you're continuing to improve yourself and do more."

The Edmond, Okla. native said this deployment should put him beyond the 9,000 hour mark before he leaves the theater.

"I love my job and I'm reasonably good at it," the mission crew commander said. "I haven't gotten fired yet and they keep letting me fly. I'll keep doing it as long as they let me."

Major Williams' nearly three decades of experience have brought the addition of responsibility of mentoring as he also paves the way for fellow E-3 Sentry flyers to attain their own personal goals.

His advice is not specific to air crews. "Find that job you really enjoy and that you're really good at; try to become the best at it," Major Williams said. "You will find rewards that become unbelievable and you will never want to do anything else. That's where I am when it comes to AWACS."