513th Air Control Group flies in Joint Task Force Exercise

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Caleb Wanzer
  • 513th Air Control Group
Reservists from the 513th Air Control Group returned last week from Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, where they provided Airborne Warning and Control System support to the Navy's Joint Task Force Exercise off the coast of Southern California.

The exercise, led by the Navy's 3rd Fleet, served as an evaluation of Carrier Strike Group 3's ability to perform strike, anti-submarine and anti-air warfare before deploying. More than 8,000 service members participated at sea, on the coast or in the air.

Capt. Nick Petersen, an air weapons officer assigned to the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron, served as the liaison officer to the exercise's combined air operations center, which acted as a central command for aircraft in the exercise.

"We were asked to come out to this exercise because we offer a command and control capability that, frankly, the carrier can't provide," Captain Petersen said. "For deep look, for deep strike, for looking far into country, that's where the AWACS comes in. That's where we offer our value."

In his first experience as a liaison officer with the Navy, Captain Petersen was impressed with the service's ability to complete its mission in its own style.

"The Navy, by design, works much differently than the other branches," he said. "They do their job, and do it very well. It's really fun to learn more about how they do it, compare it to how we do it, and then find the best way to work together to complete the mission."

During the exercise, every takeoff and mission was completed as scheduled without any delays or maintenance issues.

"There's no way that we could support JTFX, support the Navy or support any war without our maintainers," Captain Petersen said. "They work directly in line with our operators to ensure that the mission is being fulfilled, and that's exactly how this weapons system is designed to operate."

Maj. Mark Vardaro, the maintenance operations officer for the 513th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, said the perfect flying record during the exercise was no coincidence.

"We had traditional reservists as well as an active-duty member on the trip," Major Vardaro said. "It was a great opportunity for team building as well as training. We were totally focused on the mission at hand, whether it was launching aircraft or recovering them, or getting them ready and prepped for the next flight. Everybody did exactly what they came here to do."

While conducting missions in the area, the 513th also provided additional surveillance for the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol's Air and Marine Operations Center, which is responsible for homeland security and counter-drug operations throughout the continental United States.

"Our AWACS provides excellent surveillance capability that the AMOC doesn't normally have," said Col. David Robertson, the 513th Air Control Group Commander. "Not only do they appreciate the additional radar picture, but it provides some great real-world experience for our own surveillance technicians."