461st ACW commander talks C2 during AFA conference

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
When it comes to the world of command and control, the mission set can be a challenge for outsiders to understand. 

The crews who fly aboard the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System from Robins have a unique problem-solving skill, working in an environment that's as unique as the weapon system itself.

"It's not only very complex, but it's really required for every other mission to be successful," said Col. Henry Cyr, 461st Air Control Wing commander. 

As part of the 2014 Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition held in September in Maryland, Cyr was invited to moderate a national panel on C2 battle management. 

The timing was perfect since the AFA was about to present the 2013 Airborne Air Battle Management Crew of the Year award to the 12th Airborne Command and Control Squadron, Crew 2, from Robins.

The panelists included Air Force as well as Marine Corps officers with extensive C2 knowledge. Also in attendance were young officers from Robins who gained insight into not only their own mission, but how senior officers viewed the importance of C2. 

"We had a thorough discussion based upon their experiences, not only about the importance of command and control, but also looking ahead to the changing requirements that units like Team JSTARS are going to need to meet the changing threats our nation will face," said Cyr. 

"We originally wanted to have the crew provide their insights, and it grew from there," he added. "It was a unique opportunity for members of a wing to be able to not only support a panel, but drive the discussion." 

The one-hour panel discussion included an audience of nearly 175 people. During the three-day conference, there were more than 50 sessions offered that featured 70 speakers, drawing more than 6,500 registered attendees.

"It's so important to the success of what's going on in these various battle spaces, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or the wide open spaces of the Pacific Ocean," said Cyr. "All of that requires command and control to bring together various elements  - different aircrafts, ships, soldiers. To bring them together requires effective C2. J-STARS is a part of that." 

Flying an airframe that was built in the 1960s, its diverse mission is vastly different than that of say 20 years ago.

Communication inside any battle space takes careful coordination, whether crews are supporting combatant commanders on the ground, providing maritime support to the Navy or air support to Army helicopters, or assisting with bombing missions.

"The expanse of what J-STARS now does really reaches much farther than it used to," he said. "Now with advanced communication technologies, JSTARS is literally a flying global network."