by Staff Sgt. Chad Warren
871st Air Expeditionary Sqaudron Public Affairs
5/15/2015 - KEFLAVIK, Iceland -- In
a secure compound near Keflavik International Airport, a multinational
team of NATO personnel monitors Iceland's airspace, ready to respond at a
moment's notice to any perceived threat to the region.
During Icelandic Air Surveillance and Policing 2015, 11 U.S. Air Force
members and one Estonian air force member joined a full-time staff of
Icelandic Coast Guard personnel to form the control and reporting
center, a fully functional command center responsible for monitoring
airspace and deploying alert forces should the need arise.
"We are here to augment the Icelandic Coast Guard CRC," said U.S. Air
Force Maj. Christopher Howell, IAS CRC lead. "They do the surveillance
mission and they are here 24/7, always watching out for the skies over
Although Iceland does not maintain a military force, their coast guard
maintains constant watch over the surrounding airspace. During IAS,
military aircraft with weapons are sharing that airspace, bringing a
different aspect to the everyday ICG mission. That is where the USAF and
NATO partners in the CRC come in.
"We augment them by bringing the weapons control capability, and we have
members from all across the world," Howell said. "As far as fitting
into NATO, we bring a lot of different experiences and different people
from around the world to help out."
Augmenting the permanent ICG presence, the CRC for this mission is made
up of members from the 606th Air Control Squadron at Spangdahlem Air
Base, Germany, the 729th ACS at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, the 2nd Air
Support Operations Squadron in Vilseck, Germany, the U.S. Air Forces in
Europe staff at Ramstein AB, Germany, and one controller from the
Estonian air force.
Moving from a U.S.-specific system to a NATO system presents a unique
set of challenges, but these issues were quickly mitigated by
cooperation between the USAF controllers and their Estonian counterpart,
Lt. Tõnis Pärn, who works with the NATO system on a day-to-day basis.
Pärn is a fighter allocator from Control Reporting Post Ämari, Estonia,
and played a crucial part in familiarizing Howell's team with the
"[Lt. Pärn] played a huge part in filling in the gaps for us on a system
we aren't used to working on," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Joey Faraone,
IAS CRC member from the 606th ACS. "The big picture was given by the
ICG, and the details were filled in by Lt. Pärn which is a huge help for
us, so it's really cool for us to partner up and continue that
Since the earliest days of NATO, the founding nations have shouldered
the responsibility of protecting one another from outside aggression.
Iceland is the only NATO country with no military, making this ongoing
mission even more critical to the integrity of Icelandic airspace and
the arctic region as a whole.
Icelandic Coast Guard Commander Senior Grade Jon Gudnason, ICG Base
Keflavik commander, stressed the importance of the NATO fighter presence
in the country.
"This is a great opportunity with the U.S. and other nations that come
out here every year, to exercise and maintain our capability, to support
training for our staff, and to show what NATO is for and show what the
bilateral defense agreement between the U.S. and Iceland stands for," he