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Tinker first lieutenant, Lubbock native, flies combat sorties as AWO in Southwest Asia

First Lt. Tony Duke is an E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft air weapons officer with the 965th Expeditionary Airborne Air Control Squadron deployed to a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia.  As an air weapons officer, he provides airspace battle management over places like Afghanistan to execute tactical control and employment of all assigned aircraft operating in that area. Lieutenant Duke is deployed from the 965th AACS at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and his hometown is Lubbock, Texas. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol/Released)

First Lt. Tony Duke is an E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft air weapons officer with the 965th Expeditionary Airborne Air Control Squadron deployed to a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia. As an air weapons officer, he provides airspace battle management over places like Afghanistan to execute tactical control and employment of all assigned aircraft operating in that area. Lieutenant Duke is deployed from the 965th AACS at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and his hometown is Lubbock, Texas. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol/Released)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- In airspace battle management for contingency operations in the Air Force, there are specific people who operate while flying over that battle space -- among them are 1st Lt. Tony Duke.

Lieutenant Duke is an E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft air weapons officer with the 965th Expeditionary Airborne Air Control Squadron deployed to a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia. As an air weapons officer, he said to provide airspace battle management over someplace like Afghanistan, he has to execute tactical control and employment of all assigned aircraft operating in that area.

"In that role, I assist with theater air operations planning, surveillance coordination and weapons team management," said Lieutenant Duke, who is deployed from the 965th AACS at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. "I also direct and control counter-air, counter-land, early warning, combat search and rescue and air refueling missions."

The three-year Air Force veteran said the capabilities the E-3 provides in a deployed environment is "extremely important" in providing capabilities for commanders.

"My job and airframe allow commanders the ability to have command and control anytime, anywhere," said the Lubbock, Texas, native. "The E-3 is designed to go where ground based radar and radios can't and establish a command presence in the area."

According to its Air Force fact sheet, the E-3 Sentry AWACS is an integrated command and control battle management, surveillance, target detection and tracking platform. The aircraft provides an accurate, real-time picture of the battle space to a joint air operations center. The airframe provides situational awareness of friendly, neutral and hostile activity, command and control of an area of responsibility, battle management of theater forces, all-altitude and all-weather surveillance of the battle space and early warning of enemy actions during joint, allied and coalition operations.

Lieutenant Duke said to be deployed, serving in the military and flying on the E-3 provides him a great sense of humility.

"I am humbled," Lieutenant Duke said. "There are others who have sacrificed more and given more of themselves, many of them losing their lives. I am honored to continue to serve in their absence and strive to always do my job to the best of my ability.

On deploying, he added, "I am so thankful to be here and to be given the privilege to serve my country. I miss my wife and son, as well as the rest of my family and friends, but this is where I am supposed to be."

The 965th EAACS is an attached unit of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing. The 380th AEW is comprised of four groups and 12 squadrons and the wing's deployed mission includes air refueling, surveillance and reconnaissance in support of overseas contingency operations in Southwest Asia. The wing supports Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and Operation Enduring Freedom.