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From Reconnaissance to Intelligence: Celebrating Three Decades of the 123rd Intelligence Squadron’s Evolution

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jennifer Gerhardt

Ebbing Air National Guard Base, Ark. – The 123rd Intelligence Squadron kicked off 2024 by celebrating its 30th anniversary as an intelligence squadron in January.

The squadron has a unique history originating in 1952 as the 118th Observation Squadron based at the Little Rock National Airport, otherwise known as Adams Field. From 1953 to 1993, it was known as the 123rd Reconnaissance Technical Squadron before changing again in 1994 to become the 123rd Intelligence Squadron, also known as the Distributed Ground Station-Arkansas. Currently, the squadron is responsible for conducting near real-time exploitation of imagery intelligence and multi-source data collected by intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms. This provides vital information to combatant commanders and other warfighters.

“We have been asking our Airmen to embrace the Multi-Capable Airmen (MCA) concept before it was introduced by the Air Force in the Agile Combat Employment doctrine in 2022,” said Lt. Col. Casey Eubanks, the 123rd Intelligence Squadron commander. “In the last four years, our Airmen have produced an amazing amount of actionable intelligence right here in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Their intelligence products have been utilized dynamically at the tactical level and at the highest strategic levels.”

Unique to DGS-AR is the analysts’ skillsets using publicly available information which are nationally renowned. Within fiscal year 2023, the squadron produced 361 intelligence reports for U.S. Southern Command and more than 1,575 intelligence reports for U.S. Central Command. “Our multi-capable intelligence Airmen have the ability to develop comprehensive, fused, and actionable intel daily,” said Eubanks. “General (Charles Q.) Brown, wrote in August 2020, ‘we must place value in multi-capable and adaptable team builders, and courageous problem solvers.’ The 123rd Intelligence Squadron Airmen are accelerating change to ensure we do not lose.”

Within the past five years, the 123rd IS was recognized by Air Combat Command as the premier provider of publicly available information and open-source intelligence for the warfighting community. The unit has logged a litany of active-duty mobilizations for Operations Allied Force and Noble Anvil, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, Inherent Resolve, Freedom’s Sentinel, and New Dawn. In fiscal year 2023, DGS-AR operations resulted in 260 sorties flown, 318 targets worked, and 1,193 products created for near-real time operations.

Since 2001, the 123 IS was also an integral part of the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS) network focused primarily on providing near-real time ISR processing, exploitation, and dissemination (PED) to tactical warfighters through Full-Motion Video (FMV) from the MQ-9 platform.

“The 123rd Airmen are the most innovative individuals I have ever met,” said Eubanks. “Every day, they amaze me with their ability to see solutions to complex problem sets.”