45th RS brings four missions to the fight

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. James Hodgman
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs
The phone rings and a young captain quickly answers it. The voice on the other end of the line explains that a team must be ready to deploy in less than 24 hours to support an operation half way around the world.

The captain answers, "yes sir, we'll be ready." Phone calls like this are just a part of life for the members of the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron here.

The 45th RS is a diverse unit that supports four distinct missions including strategic electronic reconnaissance, ballistic missile detection, nuclear debris detection and treaty verification.

At any time this unit's aircraft could be over a foreign land collecting intelligence and providing invaluable support to warfighters and national leaders. They are also one of several here at Offutt tasked with supporting the Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. State Department.

Approximately 170 Airmen ranging from airman first class to lieutenant colonel are assigned to the 45th RS. They include electronic warfare officers, pilots, navigators and even medical technicians.

The unit's commander, Lt. Col. Brian A. Humphrey, said he's very proud of what his Airmen accomplish every day.

"The men and women of the 45th are the mission," he said. "Without them, nothing would happen, the collection success that the squadron enjoys wouldn't be possible without their tireless efforts every day, both at home and abroad."

The colonel said he's most impressed with how his unit meets deployment taskings, many times on short notice.

"I've seen crews go out the door on less than 24 hours notice," Colonel Humphrey said. "It takes a lot of coordination and logistical support to make that happen."

The colonel said the fastest he's seen a 45th team deploy is within five hours of notification.

High operations tempo is just a way of life for the unit, he said, with every member of the squadron getting exposed to it early on from the first time he or she deploys and it becomes the norm.

"We're able to maintain our standard of excellence because of the motivation, dedication and overall professionalism of every member of the team," he said. "All of our people, have an appreciation for the importance of the job they do and the missions they make possible and it's reflected daily in their performance."

In 2009, 45th aircraft flew more than 200 missions. The RC-135S Cobra Ball, an Air Force airborne reconnaissance platform that carries optics for tracking ballistic-missile tests at long ranges accounted for more than 70 of those missions.

Tech Sgt. Sean Hill, the non-commissioned officer in charge of Aviation Resource Management is responsible for making sure all Airmen that support the unit's flying mission are qualified to do so.

His office constantly tracks numerous qualifications including safety requirements and medical clearances for approximately 170 Airmen.

All of this tracking amounts to more than 40,000 training events annually and more than 54,000 individual flying hours since July 2009, with nearly 36,000 hours coming from active missions.

"We make sure that we track the qualifications and certifications of everyone that gets on the aircraft," Sergeant Hill said. "All those things have to be checked and re-checked before they can fly."

Capt. Nick Wisnewski, flight commander of operations scheduling and an evaluator pilot with the 45th RS, flew approximately 16 Cobra Ball missions in 2009. Today, he's responsible for ensuring 45th pilots receive the training they need before deploying.
The captain allocates and creates training flights monthly, as well as numerous training events weekly.

"Reconnaissance is very important especially in the joint fight; you can't assess the capabilities of your enemy or the severity of their (weapons systems) without reconnaissance," Captain Wisnewski said.

"The impact and scope of flying in the Central Command area of responsibility is (also) very important and (contributes highly) to the success of our sister services," he added.
The 45th averages approximately 40 training missions per month, he said.

While Captain Wisnewski said supporting contingency operations is important, the best part of being assigned to the 45th is flying a variety of missions around the world.

"Multiple missions are the best part of being part of the 45th. As much as it can be annoying to respond to emergent taskings, they bring a unique flavor to the missions that we support," Captain Wisnewski said.

"What I like (most) is there are different locations we could go to on a deployment, which bring different climates and flying conditions. You could experience a multitude of those on one deployment," he added.

1st Lt. Joseph M. Benjamin, a 45th RS navigator, has deployed six times since January 2009 to a wide variety of places from the Middle East to the Arctic Circle.

"Here in the 45th we operate four different platforms, deploy at a moment's notice and gather information that is vital to national defense, we do a great job and get the mission done," Lieutenant Benjamin said.

"I know the intelligence we gather shapes our national policy and defense," the lieutenant said. "It's amazing when you're on a long deployment and finally get what you were out there to get, completing the mission and sending that data off to our national leadership, it's a very important job and all 45th members are proud to do it."

While on board 45th RS aircraft as a navigator, Lieutenant Benjamin is responsible for directing the aircraft while it's in the air, maintaining navigation and timing systems, as well as assisting with communication coordination between the flight and mission crew.
He creates and executes the flight plan to allow the aircraft to be where it needs to be so the reconnaissance crew can have the absolute best possible collection ability, he said.

Lieutenant Benjamin, who is preparing to deploy for the seventh time, said maintaining the 45th's high operations tempo can be difficult, but interesting at the same time.

"When you're on the hook to deploy you never really know where or when you're leaving until it happens. It's hard for long-term life planning but overall it's exciting," Lieutenant Benjamin said.

"My wife has adjusted well to the unpredictability of life in the 45th and short notice deployments are now just part of the routine, I'm very thankful that she's able to pick up all of the pieces that I leave behind on a moments' notice and keep things at home running just as smooth as ever," he added.