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Reserve squadron achieves full operational capability

The patch worn by members of the 49th Intelligence Squadron.

The patch worn by members of the 49th Intelligence Squadron.

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Nebraska -- After two years of hard work, the 49th Intelligence Squadron has achieved full operational capability.

The 49th IS was activated in April 2014 with only 18 members and now stands as a fully functioning squadron with 72 assigned Reservists.

“We would like to thank our active duty associate unit, the 97th Intelligence Squadron, the 55th Operations Group commander, Colonel Mohan Krishna, as well as Air Force Reserve Command’s 655th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group leadership and the Air Force Reserve Command’s A2 for their efforts on our behalf,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Sieg, 49th IS commander. “Without their support we would not have had this successful stand-up.”

The 49th is a classic associate unit supporting Offutt’s own 97th IS and is subordinate to the 655th ISRG at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. They are the only AFRC unit directly providing intelligence operators on the RC-135V/W Rivet Joint.

By reaching FOC, the 49th has completed a long list of requirements setting up administrative programs, command and control duties, and ensuring 75 percent of their billets are filled with mission-ready Airmen.

“Setting up every program associated with any Air Force squadron with only nine full-time personnel was a tremendous challenge,” Sieg said. “We could not have reached FOC status without the hard work and dedication of our phenomenal part-time traditional reservists.”

The 49th IS has a unique mission set that made their road to FOC a bit more challenging than some other units. Most airborne cryptologic operators take more than two years to train, which is longer than the time that was allotted for the unit for arrive at their mission capable status.

“We have tried to take as many qualified airborne cryptologic linguists and intelligence operators coming off of active duty as possible,” said U.S. Air Force Maj Kenneth Larson, 49th IS chief of training. “By bringing them into the Reserves we keep qualified, experienced Airmen available to our country while they pursue their career or education outside the military. The Air Force invested years in training these Airmen, and keeping them in the RC-135 community allows them to share their experience and knowledge with their active duty counterparts.”

Larson added the 49th IS has opened the door to pipeline training for airborne cryptologic operators. The first pipeline reserve Airborne Cryptologic linguists are still in training. Additionally, the 49th IS has had to adapt its training schedule.

“Most Reserve and Guard squadrons have a rigid monthly drill schedule that does not leave a lot of room for individuals to change drill times,” he said. “Because we work so closely with our active duty counterparts we’ve had to become extremely flexible for our members to schedule flying events and meet currency requirements.”

With the 49th achieving FOC, they are positioned better than ever to provide their unique skills to commanders around the world as needed.

“We are now more capable of providing volunteer support to our active duty partners with trained and qualified RC-135 aircrew and ground intelligence personnel. We are also positioned to meet required tasking in our deployment window that comes every couple of years,” Sieg said. “Over the past two years we’ve had a number of volunteer Airmen deploy to Southwest Asia as well as supporting exercises and other real world contingencies around the world.”