By Capt. Genieve David
13th Air Force Public Affairs
4/5/2010 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (AFNS) -- The Hawaii Air Support Operations Center staff here achieved initial operational capability after proving its ability to deploy and perform its mission during Exercise Balikatan 2010 in March.
The unit, under the under the 25th Air Support Operations Squadron based at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, deployed 34 Airmen and more than 16 short tons of equipment to the former Clark Air Base in the Philippines via a C-17 Globemaster III to participate in the bilateral field training exercise March 9 through 22.
Balikatan is an annual exercise designed to increase interoperability between the Philippine air force and U.S. military and exercises the two nations' ability to operate together when responding to natural disasters.
"Balikatan was a key exercise for the ASOC because it provided a crucial step towards becoming fully combat mission capable," said Lt. Col. John Schaefer III, the 25th ASOS commander. "We proved we were able to field a self-sustained command and control hub which retained accountability for fixed and rotary winged aircraft while executing requests for close air support and support land maneuver forces."
As part of their team, the 25th ASOS deployed joint terminal attack controllers, communication specialists and logisticians.
JTACs, a specialized subset of the tactical air control party career field, are qualified members who, from a forward position, direct the actions of combat aircraft engaged in close air support and other air operations. The JTACs, along with communication specialists and logisticians, directly support the ASOC's main mission to coordinate and direct air support for joint force land component operations.
The new ASOC has a standard wartime mission and a new employment capability that can be tasked with supporting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
"The same air control capability used during wartime can be used to help control civilian aircraft after a major disaster when an airport may have been affected and cannot handle the influx of response personnel and supplies," said 1st Lt. Anita B. Clark, the 25th ASOS communications flight commander. "The ASOC has the capability to take control and deconflict aircraft altitudes and ensure a steady and clear flow of air traffic."
(1st Lt. Anita B. Clark contributed to this article.)