Face of Defense: Aerial Surveillance Unit Aids NATO Efforts
By Paul Baker
NATO E-3A Component
GEILENKIRCHEN, Germany, June 26, 2014 The E-3A Component based here is an integrated, multinational, rapidly deployable asset to NATO providing airborne surveillance, command, control, and communication capabilities.
An E-3A aircraft technician works on an engine while deployed to Afghanistan in support of the International Security Assistance Force. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
These are of particular significance to the unit’s key role in council-approved operations such as Operation Afghan Assist in support of the International Security Assistance Force.
The capabilities of the component’s Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft fleet also provide flexible, efficient support for NATO exercises and for the safeguarding of summits and major international public events.
The component’s respected reputation for successful mission accomplishment stems from longstanding and very effective cooperation between military and civilian personnel from 17 nations working as a unique operational team to meet these requirements in the interests of the alliance.
The local civilian staff association represents more than 600 NATO international civilians employed in a very wide range of occupational fields: financial, legal, medical, safety, administrative, information technology, technical, firefighting and many others.
“With a workforce of this size and diversity, and with deployment rotations frequently taking place, the CSA Committee very often has a tough time keeping up with all the key issues,” said Guy Vandebeek, the CSA chairman. “We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated, hardworking CSA staff committee.”
A notable aspect of working life at the component is that many staff members at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen and on deployment have a constantly changing pattern of duty hours in an operational flying environment. Key tasks include servicing and maintaining large-body aircraft equipped with complex avionics and other mission-essential systems on short notice, and immediate response to critical technical issues.
These duties include heavy lifting, crawling into very confined spaces such as aircraft fuel tanks, working at heights reaching 40 feet from elevated platforms and scaffolds, safely handling aircraft fuel, hazardous materials and industrial processes, while coping with extreme weather conditions of all kinds.
“All of this requires not only good physical fitness but also the flexibility and willingness to get the job done, whatever and wherever it may be,” said Ben Pereira, CSA vice chairman.
Good morale, team spirit and willingness to volunteer for extended time on deployment are key factors for ensuring mission fulfillment. The E-3A Component’s operational support of ISAF missions from an air base within Afghanistan, where deployed component personnel have a mandatory working week of up to 84 hours, has already entered its fourth year and is an excellent example of a context in which all these aspects are of great significance.
The component’s commander, Air Force Maj. Gen. Andrew M. Mueller, acknowledged this at the local CSA’s New Year reception in January this year.
“Whenever I see a new initiative at NATO level, I tell the people working on it that they can take the E-3A Component as a model of successful multinational cooperation,” Mueller said. “We are smart defense in action. And I make sure to tell them this could not be achieved without the experience, commitment and continuity provided by our NATO civilian staff.”