Team JSTARS answers call for humanitarian aid

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
During recent efforts in Iraq, the men and women of the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System from Robins Air Force Base answered the call for humanitarian assistance.

In protecting our national security across the globe, Team JSTARS has been doing it nonstop for the last 13 years.

As the most-recent crisis in Iraq unfolded, the Air Force conducted critical operations to help protect U.S. personnel and facilities, safeguard crucial infrastructure and support humanitarian efforts as Iraqi and Kurdish defense forces combat the terrorist organization known as ISIL. 

During mid-August, the Air Force as part of a joint team under U.S. Central Command, provided humanitarian assistance near Sinjar, Iraq. 

A crisis developed in which thousands of Yazidis - a religious minority group which mostly resides in northern Iraq - began fleeing their homes once Islamic State militants began taking over the country's northern territories and brutally killing citizens.

The Yazidis became trapped on Mount Sinjar, and with few resources on hand, faced the threat of starvation with little food or water.

A humanitarian mission, with support from C-130s sustained at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, provided airdrops of thousands of gallons of fresh drinking water and more than 100,000 meals beginning in early August.

In support of those efforts were JSTARS Airmen who were tasked with coordinating military weapon systems and providing crucial situational awareness.

With JSTARS having the ability to see what's going on below, by having the capacity to merge that with its command and control function, an air mobility officer was directed onboard the E-8C to coordinate mobility assets that were in the air at the time.

"This was a first for us," said Col. Henry Cyr, 461st Air Control Wing commander. "This was the first time an airborne mobility Command element has supported a Humanitarian Relief Operations effort on board a JSTARS, coordinating so resources could get to the right people in the right areas."

The entire operation from the request for JSTARS support, to airdrops and mission completion, lasted about a week and a half. The Yazidis were eventually able to escape Mount Sinjar. 

"I'm very proud of our folks. With literally any situation that we throw at them, they find a way to solve it," he said.

Highlighting C-130 and C-17s providing humanitarian relief below while a JSTARS crew was above, Cyr said, "When you think about it, two key pieces from Robins came together to perform a mission that probably nobody anticipated halfway around the world." 

In addition to providing support to CENTCOM, JSTARS has presence right now in several combatant commands around the world.

"Just recently we surpassed 100,000 hours flying in support of all combatant commanders," said Cyr, with more than 90 percent of its global operations in direct support of CENTCOM during the last 13 years. 

One of nine unified commands in the U.S. military, CENTCOM'S area of responsibility covers 20 countries, including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

JSTARS was one of the last manned platforms when the U.S. pulled out of Iraq, and was one of the first command and control platforms back, according to Cyr.