Reservists mark 2 million hours in RPA operations

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jessica Martin
  • 926th Group public affairs
Team Nellis' Reserve component marked a milestone Oct. 22 as the U.S. Air Force's MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper aircraft accumulated 2 million flight hours.

The Reserve presence in the Remotely Piloted Aircraft program began here in 2002, and members have been in lock step with the Regular Air Force since, flying combat operations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"It's absolutely amazing to witness the growth of not only the program but the Reserve footprint," said Col. John Breeden, 926th Group commander.

Breeden was the first reservist to join Predator operations here and the first to qualify to fly the aircraft. Over the course of a decade his career evolved from working missile integration and tactics development to overseeing two RPA squadrons operating both the Predator and Reaper.

"Our charge is to augment our RegAF Total Force partners with sustained expertise at the operational and tactical levels of warfare. The Reserve entered the RPA program on the ground floor and provides continuity in training and conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance activities worldwide," Breeden said.

The significant demand for sorties grew the initial 10 positions allotted to the Reserve to two squadrons under the 926th Group, responsible for five percent of the Air Force's Combat Air Patrols.

Today, the 78th Attack Squadron and 91st Attack Squadron integrate their pilots, sensor operators and intelligence personnel into the RegAF's 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing and provide ten percent of the manning for the associated combat squadrons' CAPs.

"This milestone demonstrates how well the Reserve and RegAF integrate on this platform," said Col. Brent Caldwell, 926th Deputy Group Commander for RPA Operations.

"The partnership between the 926th Group and 432nd Wing/AEW is a benchmark Total Force Integration model for the Air Force and Air Force Reserve," he said.

The Total Force program's progression is notable, having reached one million hours in 2011, and doubling that only two and a half years later.

In addition to the attack squadrons, the 2nd Special Operations Squadron has contributed more than 35,000 flying hours and 2,300 sorties in the MQ-1 since its stand up here in 2008. It is the only Air Force Reserve Command unit flying U.S. SOUTHERN COMMAND-owned RPA missions.

"We bring a persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and strike capability to a customer engaged in the prosecution of this war," said Lt. Col. Randal Russell, 2nd SOS commander.

"I couldn't be prouder of the professionalism of our men and women--they are engaged and doing a phenomenal job supporting our combat operations down range."

The Reserve is currently responsible for four CAPs, and the mission continues to expand for Team Nellis with the 429th Air Combat Training Squadron from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., scheduled to stand up under the 926th GP in mid-November. The 429th is a flight training unit that provides instructor pilots and instructor sensor operators.