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Alabama EW Airmen strive to be AF top shop after adversity

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Hayden Johnson
  • 187 Fighter Wing Public Affairs
In April 2014, the 187th Fighter Wing here deployed in the first ever six month Air National Guard wing deployment to Afghanistan. Upon returning, the 187th Electronic Warfare shop came back to the worst possible scenario.

"All of our pods were not mission capable," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. William Bateman, the NCO in charge of the 187th EW shop. "Test stations weren't mission capable. Nothing in our shop was visibly ready."

The purpose of the AN/ALQ-184 ECM pods are to jam radar or other detection systems. The pods keep the wing's F-16 Fighting Falcon and pilots safe when flying into enemy territory.

Although the task of getting the pods mission ready seemed impossible, the shop faced the challenge head-on, the same way they do today.

"We definitely always accept challenges," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Davis, a 187th EW technician. "We face them head on. We don't want them to happen, but when they do happen, we definitely don't mind working it out."

With continued resiliency and hard work, the 187th EW shop now operates one of the highest Mission Capable Rate (MCR) units in the U.S. Air Force.

"At any given point, we have the ability to support any flying package possible," Bateman said. "We can give more pods than you can give us airplanes."

After the deployment, a schedule was created to develop, maintain and inspect the pods.

"We created a process where there are no surprises in our work," Bateman said. "Going forward, it's like clockwork. The pods still fail, and they may still break, but nothing is dramatic anymore.

"Because of the way they are testing them, they can almost forecast when things are going to go bad and get ahead of it."

Although it may sound simple to "get ahead" of problems, Bateman said the knowledge required to be an EW technician is extensive. By just looking at a pod, it can be difficult to see whether it is broken or not, but knowing what could be wrong makes the difference.

"You have to be invested to be a halfway decent troubleshooter," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. William Rus, a 187th EW technician and production supervisor. "It's going to take you three or four years just to comprehend everything. You've really got to put in the work to be able to fix it."

The success made by the shop can be seen not only in their knowledge and operations but from their MCR remaining between 96 and 100 percent.
"It definitely takes a lot of effort to maintain the cycle and keep (MCR) at 100 percent," said Senior Airman Christopher Eastridge, a 187th EW technician.

Both Bateman and Rus agreed that each member in the shop puts forth more than the effort needed to operate the shop. From two years ago to now, the 187th EW shop has remained resilient to challenges and continues to work hard every day to ensure their shop remains at a high MCR.

"Your work product is the final measure of you at the end of the day," Bateman said. "They deserve more credit than they ever get for the work that they do, and their work product is evident. Every time I walk in there, they're moving seamlessly. They do such great work.

"I am proud of the work that they've done and the work they continue to do," Bateman said.