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Connecticut Guard Completes Mission Systems Operator Conversion

  • Published
  • By Sgt. Matthew Lucibello,
  • 130th Public Affairs Detachment

ORANGE, Conn. - The 103d Air Control Squadron of the Connecticut Air National Guard is the first National Guard unit to complete the mission systems operator conversion. 

The squadron will be involved in further modernization efforts, including testing cutting-edge equipment like the Tactical Operations Center - Light and the TPY-4 radar, as the Air Force and Air National Guard look over the horizon to respond to any potential future conflict.

The unit provides “air battle management, radar surveillance, air space control, and long-haul communication capabilities to plan and execute combined air operations, air superiority and air strike ground attack operations, “according to its website. “Additionally, the 103d ACS provides state authorities with a dedicated force ready to react to local and national emergencies.”

To conduct air battle management, radar surveillance and airspace control, the 103d ACS relies on air battle managers (ABMs), weapons directors (WDs) and mission systems operators (MSOs) in their command and control section, led by Maj. Seth Bopp.

The MSO position is a newly created specialty that combines and streamlines three technician fields: surveillance technician, air surveillance technician and interface control technician.

The 103d ACS laid the foundation for all future Air National Guard MSOs, creating a training curriculum that became the standard operating procedure for MSO conversion training.

“We authored the syllabus for the conversion and sent it to NGB (National Guard Bureau) for approval,” said Bopp. “It’s being used as a template for all 10 Air National Guard CRCs (Control and Reporting Centers).” 

The 103d ACS operators constantly train using simulations. The MSOs are integrated with the ABMs and WDs in the section, enhancing unit cohesion and facilitating a better understanding of their role in command and control.

When they aren’t training, these MSOs, ABMs and WDs work around the clock supporting pilots out of regional air bases such as Atlantic City Air National Guard Base, Barnes Air National Guard Base and Vermont Air National Guard Base as they conduct real-world flight operations.

“Airmen here are not just training for contingency operations; we have operators controlling live-fly events weekly,” said Connecticut Air National Guard Maj. Katriina Clegg, 103d ACS commander. “I am impressed with their dedication to the mission and the hard work they put in daily.”

One such operation occurred Oct. 31, as F-15 aircraft out of Barnes Air National Guard Base conducted a simulated defensive counter-air operations mission. MSOs, ABMs and WDs from the 103d ACS monitored and analyzed radar returns to inform friendly pilots of a flight of incoming “opposing” force aircraft. 

After identifying the aircraft as hostile fighters, the team from the 103d ACS determined the type of aircraft the simulated enemy was flying, their combat capabilities and objectives. Operators from the 103d ACS constantly updated the friendly pilots with changes in enemy activity throughout their simulated dogfights. 

In addition to providing operators to support flight training, the 103d ACS routinely deploys on its own or to augment active-duty command and control units. For the Airmen of the 103d ACS, this historically has meant deploying boots on the ground to the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility, or CENTCOM. However, in some cases, Airmen can accomplish their mission by controlling airspace in theater from command and control centers stateside.

Notably, the 103d ACS was the first and last Air Force unit to control airspace over Afghanistan during the Global War on Terror. The unit controlled airspace over the country after the U.S. Marine Corps transferred responsibility in 2003 and during the Kabul Airlift in 2021.