Air Force News

Army contingent has big impact on air operation

Released: Nov 5, 1997

by Staff Sgt. Jeff Loftin
Combined Task Force Public Affairs

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey (AFNS) -- Those who think the U.S. Army is all camouflage face paint and combat gear might be suprised to find them supporting an air operation like Operation Northern Watch. Although small in number, Army soldiers have a big impact in ONW.

Twenty-one soldiers make up the Army contingent at Incirlik; however, there are infantry, artillery, aviation and military intelligence soldiers filling key jobs in force protection, operations, intelligence and administration. They provide a unique expertise to the ONW mission.

"We have guys trained in several Intelligence specialties that the Air Force doesn't have or can't fill," said Army Staff Sgt. Earnestine Burks, the ONW Army liaison. "The Army spent a lot of money to train people in different intelligence nuiances, such as human analysis, which can be put to good use here.

"At ONW they get to do exactly what they were trained to do in a real-world environment," she said.

"The Army's role here is to provide a ground perspective," said Army Staff Sgt. Mark West, noncommissioned officer in charge of ground Intelligence. "Depending on each person's area of expertise, they can add a lot to the mission. In my job, we primarily focus on the ground forces of Iraq. This is my second joint operation. This one is unique primarily because you get to work with a lot of people you don't normally work with. You get to learn a lot about how things are in the Air Force. It's been really interesting."

Besides helping provide intelligence for the mission, soldiers at ONW provide a different perspective on operations. From the Combined Task Force chief of staff and his executive officer to those who work in force protection and administration, the soldiers offer new ways to look at things.

"The Army officers and NCOs bring different and varied backgrounds to the staff," said Air Force Lt. Col. Kris Bucklew, who has several soldiers working for him as director of the Operations Directorate. "They have great expertise in operations planning and in force protection, which really is an asset for the Combined Task Force. They speak a different language though, so I get to use my Army/Air Force dictionary a lot."

"It's been interesting to see how the Air Force works and to work around Air Force people," said Army Capt. Rob Frank, the chief of staff's executive officer. "You get a completely different perspective of what the military is from people in other services. It's interesting just to notice the differences in speech. Air Force fighter pilots have a lingo all their own. The Army also has a completely different lingo. You learn a lot about the differences in the services and their similarities."

Although only making up a fraction of ONW personnel, the U.S. Army's contributions have a huge impact on mission accomplishment.

"It is a rare opportunity for soldiers to serve in a multinational coalition operation like Northern Watch," said Army Col. Robert Stewart, CTF chief of staff, who has been both an infantry officer and a helicopter pilot. "We bring unique skills, experiences and perspectives to the CTF. I feel we are making a significant contribution, but just as important, we are learning valuable lessons about the Air Force that we can take back to our units and use."

Brig. Gen. Don Lamontagne, the CTF commander, summed it up this way:

"The Army officers and NCOs bring a different service culture and additional core competencies to the Combined Task Force," said the general. "They are disciplined planners and their real strong suit is force protection. The healthy spirit of pride and competition between all the services in the CTF means the level and quality of effort are both on the rise. Together, we are an awesome joint team!"