Thursday, February 23, 2006

Onward Mormon Soldiers

The January 23 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology features an article, "Old and Sneaky," by senior military editor David A. Fulghum, in which he describes a trip on board Senior Scout. The magazine explains that the U.S. Air Force extended the offer to Fulghum to accompany a mission during Operation Trident Warrior '05, with the understanding that certain intelligence-related information could not be used in the article and that the last names of the 169th Intelligence Sqdn.'s aircrew would not be revealed.

"Some of the military's principal battlefield targets are changing. Instead of tanks and aircraft, the objects of choice are radars, microwave towers, cell phones, satellite dishes and other communication links. However, the goal is to exploit rather than destroy them. Exploitation could mean loosing a torrent of false information into an enemy network or controlling cell phone calls or dropping in a package of algorithms for mining computer databases. But a key element for any of these scenarios is the initial step of finding the doors-usually antennas of some sort-used to get information in and out of enemy networks.

Much of the exploratory operational work in the field is being done by the U.S. Air Force's secretive 55th Wing, which either flies or has operational control of the small RC-135 Rivet Joint, EC-130 Compass Call, EC-130J Commando Solo and Senior Scout units. Senior Scout is a containerized signals intelligence facility that has been compartmentalized for installation in a standard C-130E or H cargo-carrying aircraft."

. . .

"Generally, a crew of nine or more intelligence specialists operates from the container. During Operation Trident Warrior '05, I flew on a Senior Scout mission from the 169th Intelligence Sqdn., a Utah Air National Guard unit based in Salt Lake City. About 60-70% of squadron members are Mormons, many of them recruited for the language skills they developed doing missionary work for the church, says Lt. Col. Mitch, the 169th's operations officer. Specialties include Persian, Pashitun, Dari, Farsi and Arab dialects for their Central Command deployments, and Spanish for Southern Command assignments. The unit also boasts a 94% retention rate, he says. Aircrews are hand-picked for their ability to remain calm and analytical under stressful conditions."

. . .

"The Senior Scout payload has already proven its war-fighting worth in combat operations. The unit, flying out of a base in Uzbekistan, won USAF's 2005 Gen. Jerome E O'Malley Trophy for locating key commanders among a group of 120 insurgents that was maneuvering to attack a small group of U.S. Marines involved in supporting elections in Afghanistan in 2004. Within 90 sec. of being alerted to the danger by using communications, electronics and special signals detection, they had pinpointed three targets for tactical aircraft strikes. Senior Scout crewmen later identified the escape routes and locations of those fleeing once the U.S. attacks had intensified. Of the enemy group, 80 were killed."

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