AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates --
Whether sailor or soldier, active duty or Air National Guard, an enlisted member or a field-grade officer, military members are part of something bigger, and regardless of status, everyone contributes to the mission of the United States.
Far from home in a deployed environment, many components make up the complex, yet dynamic mission. Members of the Utah National Guard, also known as UTANG, are one of those key components here at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.
“The difference is that back home, I don't get nearly the experience I do in a deployed environment,” said Maj. Josh Bateman, 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron Joint Interface Control officer. “The operations here are vastly more complex than anything we can simulate back at home on a drill weekend. So having the deployed experience is exciting and energizing, inspiring me to be more involved and seek for more opportunities to train and integrate our squadron more into what's happening in the larger enterprise.”
These Airmen deployed from the 109th Air Control Squadron in Salt Lake City, Utah. The 109th ACS’ mission is to aggressively extend global reach through air refueling, aeromedical evacuation and airlift to U.S. and allied military forces; to enable critical intelligence systems, air traffic control, cyber infrastructure and information operations for the warfighter. They provide civil defense, disaster relief and domestic response to state and national emergencies as directed by the Governor of Utah.
“The entire mission of the 109th ACS is to provide a part of the integrated management of the Ground Theater Air Control System wherever we go, as our motto goes: ‘Anytime, anywhere,’” said Senior Airman Andrew Sandoval, 727th EACS radar maintenance technician. “Even while deployed with the 727th EACS, that mission does not change and feeds directly into and contributes to the overall mission of ADAB and U.S. Air Forces Central Command.”
This special unit, also known as the ‘Kingpin,’ brings a major capability that would be detrimental to lose. This mission perfectly coincides with the ADAB’s purpose within the area of responsibility – to defend the region against any adversary.
“ADAB is a major hub for operations in this part of the world, and UTANG is one more weapon in ADAB’s arsenal,” said Master Sgt. Evan Smith, 727th EACS radar maintenance technician. “UTANG is, ‘taking care of things in the air,’ working side-by-side with numerous service components, providing a regional air space picture, controlling and monitoring missions, ensuring maintenance is being performed, and doing it all with the security this line of work demands in order to complete the mission on our watch.”
Though these warriors are a long way from home, the realization of applying their skills to real-world scenarios has given fulfillment while being downrange.
“I was a late activation, finding out I was leaving only 30 days prior to departure, but I feel honored to be included in this deployment,” said Staff Sgt. Wesley Escalante, 727th EACS maintenance operations center technician. “I have really enjoyed working with other units and being able to see the military in action. Training back home is fun, and I still learn, but applying the skills to carry out a real mission is a very different feeling. I look forward to returning to see my family, but I enjoy the mission, the activities, and the lifestyle that is available at ADAB.”