By 1Lt Kinder Blacke, 552nd Air Control Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 19, 2009
TINKER AFB, Okla. --
As the premier airborne command and control and battle management platform in the world, the 552nd Air Control Wing's E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) is frequently needed to support various missions around the world.
One of these most recent missions was particularly exciting: helping Autobots fight off Decepticons in support of worldwide security.
As seen in the newly released movie, "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," the E-3 AWACS plays an integral role in fighting off the "bad guys" and ensuring the "good guys" reign victorious in the action-packed film.
The E-3 crew is shown in action doing what they do best: providing command and control information to senior leaders to help support national and worldwide security.
This was not the first time the 552 ACW was asked to participate in a Transformers film. In 2006, the 965th Airborne Air Control Squadron sent a crew to Edwards AFB to film for the first Transformers movie, released in 2007.
After using the AWACS in the first film, the director, Michael Bay, decided to include it again in the sequel. In September 2008, Airmen from the 964th Airborne Air Control Squadron, along with a crew of support personnel, travelled to Holloman AFB to participate in the filming of this summer's blockbuster.
"Mr. Bay was very aware and impressed with the E-3 and what it provides to combatant commanders in theater," said Lt. Col. Jimmy Warren, commander, 965 AACS, and project officer for the T2 trip.
Colonel Warren was the mission crew commander during the scene filmed on the E-3 AWACS. "Filming the scene on the E-3 was a little stressful with the lights, cameras, and recording equipment," he said.
Senior Airman Joseph Dunk, airborne surveillance technician, 964 AACS, agreed. "You hear 'Action!' and your adrenaline gets going a bit, and then you just hope you don't mess up when the camera comes around."
Fortunately, the words flowed easily since the script was similar to what the Airmen would say on a real mission. Michael Bay worked with the crew to come up with the dialogue. "He let us write our own lines for a more accurate representation," said Capt. Mitchell Mayes, instructor air weapons officer, 552nd Training Squadron.
"Once the communications started inside the E-3, the crew began speaking as if we really were providing Command and Control during a wartime mission," said Colonel Warren.
"We just had to be ourselves and pretend like we were doing a real mission," added Airman Dunk. Then Michael Bay could cut and paste sections of the footage together to get the desired effect, he said.
Despite coming to the E-3 to film after an already-long day of work, Michael Bay did not rush his time on the jet working with the crewmembers.
"He was genuinely interested in what we all do," Airman Dunk said. He came around the plane and asked everyone about their role on the jet, spending nearly three hours talking and filming for just a short clip in the movie.
"I don't think there could be any better way to make the armed forces feel appreciated than that!" Airman Dunk said about the experience. "It makes you feel really good about what you do."
Colonel Warren agreed, remarking how "outstanding" it was that Michael Bay used US Air Force assets in the movie, especially the E-3. "We were able to showcase the best airborne Tactical Command and Control platform in the world," he said.
"The best part about the whole experience was the actual filming of the E-3 scene in the movie and getting to see the behind-the-set dynamics of making a movie," said Colonel Warren. Not only did the crew see the movie-making process on the jet, they also spent some time on one of the movie sets built in the middle of the White Sands Missile Range.
Captain Mayes was amazed by the amount of time and effort put into building the set. The movie production team gave the E-3 crew a tour around the war-torn town, which they had created out of wood, plaster and Styrofoam. The staff demonstrated some special effects and one of the staff members even started a fire, said Captain Mayes.
The Airmen got to stay on the set and watch the filming for a couple of hours. "It's a pain-staking process to get that perfect shot," said Airman Dunk, "but now I know why the movies turn out to be so good."
They even saw some of the action scenes being filmed. "The explosions were incredible and very realistic," Colonel Warren said. "The debris was flying everywhere!"
In the midst of the excitement, the actors who were not involved in the current shot were hardly shy. "Tyrese Gibson and Josh Duhamel were extremely nice and supportive of the US military," said Colonel Warren. "Tyrese was very happy to see USAF personnel since he was playing a USAF Special Tactics Chief Master Sergeant."
Airman Dunk also got a chance to meet the stars. "They were really nice, down to earth folks," he said. "Some even got us water, which was a shock to me since they have people to do that for them. They expressed their thanks and were really grateful for what we do."
As one would imagine, this was an unforgettable experience for all those Airmen lucky enough to participate. "It was a once in a career opportunity to rub elbows with Hollywood and tell the Air Force and E-3 story," said Colonel Warren, "and the 552 ACW personnel who deployed in support of T2 represented the wing, group, and Air Force extremely well."
Thanks to the support of the air crew, maintainers, and Security Forces, the Decepticons were defeated and the mission was a great success!