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U.S. Commando Solo II Takes Over Afghan Airwaves

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2001 – After years of Taliban propaganda, the Afghan people are hearing another voice.

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An Air Force crew member adjusts the output of a transmission during an EC-130E Commando Solo II training mission. Photo by Master Sgt. David Hawkins, USAF.
  

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At any time of the day or night, an Air Force Special Operations Command EC-130E Commando Solo II is in the area of operations and broadcasting news and information to the Afghan people.

The aircraft fly a variety of missions. In Afghanistan, they're broadcasting music, news and information in the various languages of the country. These are radio broadcasts only.

The planes are part of the 193rd Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. They are based at Harrisburg International Airport, Pa.

Army specialists in the language and customs of the area prepare the broadcasts.

The capability allows U.S. Central Command planners to warn the Afghan population to stay away from Taliban and Al Qaeda targets. The broadcasts stress that the coalition campaign is not aimed at the Afghan people, but at the terrorists and their Taliban supporters.

"We have no wish to hurt you, the innocent people of Afghanistan," reads one English translation of a broadcast. "Stay away from military installations, government buildings, terrorist camps, roads, factories or bridges."

Another broadcast told the people of Afghanistan why the United States is attacking the Taliban and Al Qaeda. "On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of people were killed en masse in the United States," it reads. "Among them was a two-year- old girl. Barely able to stand or dress herself. Did she deserve to die? Why was she killed you ask? Was she a thief? What crime had she committed? She was merely on a trip with her family to visit her grandparents. Policemen, firefighters, teachers, doctors, mothers, father, sisters, brothers all killed. Why?"

The broadcast went on to explain that the attacks in New York and the Pentagon were on innocent people -- an act forbidden by the Muslim Koran. "(The terrorists) believe they are heroes, Ghazi warriors triumphing over the evil of the West," the broadcast continues. "However, the truth is they are murderers and do not represent Islam." Ghazi warriors are Muslim heroes from the early days of the religion.

Ham radio operators can listen to the broadcast at 8700 kilohertz, said Air Force 1st Lt. Edward Shank, a spokesman for the squadron. The squadron has participated in operations in Panama, Bosnia, Kosovo and during the Gulf War. Their aircraft have been modified to not only handle radio, but television broadcasts. They can broadcast via tape or live. "If needed, we have the capability to take a speech by the President of the United States and beam it live via satellite to the aircraft, which then would broadcast it," Shank said.

The name "Commando Solo II" also has meaning. Commando refers to the special operations mission, and Solo refers to the fact that the aircraft can go it alone, Shank said.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAn Air Force crew member "tweaks" the signal during broadcast on a recent training mission aboard an EC- 130 "Commando Solo II" aircraft. The Commando Solo is flown by the 193rd Special Operations Wing, Pennsylvania Air National Guard. Photo by Master Sgt. David Hawkins, USAF.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA security forces member of the 193rd Special Operations Wing, stands guard in front of one of the unit's EC-130E Commando Solo II aircraft. Photo by Master Sgt. David Hawkins, USAF.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA Commando Solo II makes a pass over the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. The specially equipped EC-130E aircraft is used for psychological operations and is flown by the 193rd Special Operations Wing, Pennsylvania Air National Guard. Photo by MSgt. David Hawkins, USAF.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA Commando Solo rests at night on the flight line at home, Harrisburg International Airport, Middletown, Pa. The EC-130E Commando Solo II is used for psychological operations and flown by the 193rd Special Operations Wing, Pennsylvania Air National Guard. Photo by Master Sgt. David Hawkins, USAF.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageCommando Solo II, an EC-130E special operations aircraft of the Pennsylvania National Guard, overflies Harrisburg, Pa. Photo by Master Sgt. David Hawkins, USAF.  
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