New Intel Squadron Turns Aerial Eye on Terrorists
By Chief Master Sgt. Gary Emery, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla., Aug. 30, 2006 Terrorists and their supporters around the world soon will be under the gaze of a powerful "unblinking eye" providing information on their whereabouts to a "brain" here.
The reactivation of the 11th Intelligence Squadron here marks a milestone for Air Force Special Operations Command, which gains its first intelligence squadron. The 11th IS, commanded by Lt. Col. David Hambleton, is assigned to Air Force Special Operations Forces, AFSOC's warfighting headquarters.
The squadron's mission is to process, exploit and disseminate to commanders information gathered by AFSOC's MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicles and other airborne intelligence and surveillance sources, Hambleton said. The Predator is a medium-altitude, long-endurance, remotely piloted aircraft operated by the 3rd Special Operations Squadron at Creech Air Force Base, Nev.
Operators at Creech use remote controls to fly Predators anywhere in the world, around the clock. That capability, when fully realized, will create what Army Gen. Doug Brown, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, calls an "unblinking eye" for special operations forces.
But even an unblinking eye is worthless without a brain to process the information the eye sees, said Air Force Col. Timothy Leahy, AFSOF vice commander.
"That's where the 11th IS comes in," he said.
"We're going to extract intel value from data streams coming off (reconnaissance aircraft), figure out what the bad guys are doing and provide information to special ops commanders so they can make combat decisions," Hambleton said. "Basically, the 3rd SOS will provide the data, and we'll tailor it for the SOF customer forward."
Special operations forces require SOF-specific intelligence, Hambleton said. So the entire data gathering-analysis-combat commander chain is specialized and unique compared to the way other Air Force commands process and disseminate data, he said.
For instance, AFSOC is the only major command where the intelligence weapons system, called the distributed common ground system, works hand-in-hand with the air operations center. In AFSOC, both the DCGS and AOC report to the AFSOF commander, Col. Michael Callan.
"I'm very excited to see the 11th IS a reality," Callan said. "Many dedicated members of the AFSOF and AFSOC staffs have worked very hard to make this day happen.
"Having the 11th IS provide dedicated intelligence support to our warfighters will make us better able to find, fix and finish our adversaries," he said. "I welcome Colonel Hambleton and his squadron members to AFSOF".
In the war on terrorism, tracking down elusive enemies is akin to what Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael W. Wooley, AFSOC commander, calls "finding the proverbial needle not in a haystack, but hiding among other needles."
Intel specialists of the 11th IS will "be able to discern what that needle among needles is doing," Leahy said. "Once the operators of the 11th Intelligence Squadron find and fix the enemy, the world's best special operators, riding in the back of AFSOC aircraft, will go in and finish them."
(Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Gary Emery is assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs.)