Deploy, Win, Return, Repeat: 606th ACS maintains mission readiness

606th ACS

Senior Airman David Arias, 606th ACS ground radar systems technician, and Staff Sgt. Daniel Sanchez, 606th Air Control Squadron electronics protection technician, evaluates radar equipment after calibration. Radar maintenance and electronic protection technicians ensure the radar picture displayed is as accurate as possible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

606th ACS

Staff Sgt. Daniel Sanchez, 606th Air Control Squadron electronics protection technician, evaluates radar equipment after calibration. Sanchez’ job requires him to ensure the radar picture displayed is as accurate as possible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

606th ACS

Staff Sgt. Daniel Sanchez, 606th Air Control Squadron electronics protection technician, evaluates radar equipment, Sept. 28, 2017, at Aviano Air Base, Italy. The 606th ACS is a mobile command and control unit that deploys all over the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

606th ACS

Staff Sgt. Andrew Snyder, 606th Air Control Squadron weapons director, and Airman 1st Class Eric Cooke, 606th ACS surveillance technician, control simulated aircraft during a training scenario, Sept. 28, 2017, at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Surveillance and weapons teams use radar imagery to coordinate with fighter pilots for training and real-life missions all over the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

606th ACS

Airman 1st Class Eric Cooke, 606th Air Control Squadron surveillance technician, control simulated aircraft during a training scenario, Sept. 28, 2017, at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Surveillance and weapons teams use lessons learned from previous deployments and home-station trainings to remain warfighter ready. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Inside a tent, wired with hundreds of feet of cables for two dozen computers, sits an Airman monitoring a radar picture displayed on his screen.

The computer screen shows a potential threat 50 miles from U.S. Air Force pilots. Cruising at 345 mph, the pilots have less than 10 minutes before interception.

A team of 606th Air Control Squadron Airmen must figure out if the unknown threat is hostile, and if so, inform the pilots of the best course of action.

This simulated scenario is one of many built upon lessons learned from previous deployments and home-station trainings. The 606th ACS uses these scenarios to remain warfighter ready.

“Time down range is time for us to work through real-world missions and learn more about our job from a different aspect,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Sanchez, 606th ACS electronics protection technician. “Our controllers coordinate with 20 to 50 aircraft at a time to de-conflict airspace and complete the mission, and we use that experience to apply it to our job when we come back home.”

According to Sanchez, airmen returning to Aviano Air Base, Italy, after a deployment immediately re-integrate into the wing’s mission.

After returning, 606th ACS Airmen train with 510th and 555th Fighter Squadron pilots to be mission-ready.

Then the call comes in again.

“Once you’re into the swing of things at the base, you know mentally there is another deployment coming up, it’s something you expect and have to prepare for,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Snyder, 606th ACS weapons director.

Certain 606th ACS Airmen were selected several months in advance for their current deployment. Soon after “getting tagged,” the squadron increased its training operations.

“During spin up, we had Airmen running through simulated missions all day to prepare for their deployment locations,” said Sanchez. “At the same time, we had Airmen performing live and simulated scenarios for qualification training.”

Spin up is the term used when a unit primes itself for a deployment. The squadron uses this time to finalize its game plan and hone in on all the necessary skills needed to be warfighter ready.

“Our deployment preparation is an academic fire hose. The training is a full reboot no matter what we’ve learned in the past year,” said Snyder. “There are all new rules of engagement for different airspaces, aircraft types, pilot call signs and special instructions.”

To prepare the approximately 140 606th ACS Airmen for Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and the Arabian Gulf region, the squadron needed accurate information. Each area required different roles and responsibilities for U.S. and NATO forces.

“We received intelligence reports from other air control Airmen currently at the deployment locations and used that information to train for months leading up to our departure,” said Sanchez. “It gets pretty crazy with everyone making sure they are prepared to deploy.”

Although Sanchez and Snyder did not deploy with the squadron this year, they said every Airmen in the 606th ACS must maintain 100% readiness at all times.

“When I’m hit with a situation I don’t know how to handle, I trust my training, keep a cool head and try to be the voice of reason to the pilots up there,” said Snyder. “I learned a lot from my two deployments and use my experience in trainings at home station, so when I deploy next I can be squared away on day one.”

Until the next exercise or deployment, 606th Airmen will continue to run live missions and training scenarios.

“We have to be focused, fit and prepared for whatever happens in the future, whether that’s tomorrow or next year,” said Sanchez. “Sometimes we may have to leave at a moment’s notice, but that’s fine, because we’re always ready.”