A C-130 unit assigned
to Balad Air Base, Iraq, is carrying a fairly conventional piece of
equipment throughout the skies over the Central Command area of
responsibility in an unconventional way.
Instead of hauling people and cargo, the 777th Expeditionary
Airlift Squadron is carrying an airborne command and control
communications suite, helping convoy commanders communicate on the
The Joint Airborne Command and Control Command Post, what the
unit calls Jackpot, fits nicely into the back of a Hercules, said
Lt. Col. Mark Czelusta, 777th EAS commander.
"It's a way to use airlift other than from a pure logistics and
distribution standpoint," the colonel said. "Using the C-130 in
this way is just another piece of the whole airpower umbrella of
support the 332nd (Air Expeditionary Wing) provides to convoy
operators on the ground."
The airlift squadron's primary mission is convoy reduction. They
fly cargo drops and movement, distinguished visitor airlift,
detainee transport, aeromedical evacuations, troop transport and
The people operating the equipment and controlling the
information flow are from all branches of the military.
communicating with the convey operators on the ground are able to
manage information and discern problems in advance, Colonel
These messages range from "A-okay" to "we're engaged," he
"Providing this information is vital," Colonel Czelusta said.
"Convey missions are dangerous, fluid situations. Collecting
information and providing it to decision makers on the ground in a
timely, efficient manner saves lives."
Those operating consoles serve as a communications relay center.
They should not be confused with the E-3 Sentry, which has a radar
system and serves as an airborne warning and control system.
C-130 crews at Balad have been flying the Jackpot missions for
several weeks without a gap.
As the first and only forward-based C-130 squadron in combat,
the 777th EAS has reduced the number of trucks on the road by
airlifting about 15,000 truckloads of cargo since January. This has
lowered the number of Soldiers exposed to danger. The new Jackpot
missions further increases safety for Soldiers on the ground by
connecting them with people who are looking out for them, looking
around corners and who are ready to call in support.
"I'm very proud of everyone who flies these missions from the
Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines working the consoles to the
full-up members of the squadron who fly and maintain the aircraft,"
the colonel said. "Everyone is working very hard to accomplish this
From concept to execution and now sustainment, everyone has
pulled together to make this happen, he said.
"We've received strong praise from ground commanders," Colonel
Czelusta said. "The warfighters are very happy." [ANN Salutes
Master Sgt. Julie Briggs, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public