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Reconnaissance squadron's Predators keep vigilant eye on Iraq

ALI BASE, Iraq -- Maj. Keven Gambold pilots an MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle while being marshaled in after a mission Jan. 10. Major Gambold is an officer of the Royal Air Force which through a military personnel exchange program is currently deployed to the 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron as the squadron commander. Major Gambold is deployed from the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron, Creech Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder)

ALI BASE, Iraq -- Maj. Keven Gambold pilots an MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle while being marshaled in after a mission Jan. 10. Major Gambold is an officer of the Royal Air Force which through a military personnel exchange program is currently deployed to the 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron as the squadron commander. Major Gambold is deployed from the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron, Creech Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder)

ALI BASE, Iraq -- Taking center stage in helping win the
war on terrorism in Iraq are unmanned aerial vehicles such as the MQ-1
Predator.

Although the plane is small compared to the F-16 Fighting Falcon, it
packs a punch with its vigilant purpose and silent victories.

Since October 2007, the 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron's
two-man crews have successfully flown more than 300 sorties, helping to
put a foothold on terrorist activities in Iraq.

"We have made some close liaisons with the Army here on base and have
helped them in a few very successful operations recently," said Maj.
Keven Gambold, 361st ERS commander and Royal Air Force exchange officer
deployed from the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron, Creech Air Force Base,
Nev.

The Predator cockpit never leaves the ground but has many of the same
features as an airborne one. The cockpit is called a ground control
station and houses <<080110-F-4127S-115.jpg>> the pilots, sensor
operators and equipment necessary to control the aircraft remotely.

The remotely piloted Predator soars like a bird seeking its prey.
Cruising along at between 80 and 100 mph, the medium-altitude,
long-endurance plane can hover for nearly a day collecting data -
perhaps of a terrorist network - as it tracks the deadly deeds of the
enemy.

The 361st ERS is looked at as the launch and recovery crew, but they
also accomplish base-defense missions by looking for indirect fire and
conducting convoy overwatch.

"After take-off we check out the laser and other aircraft systems then
coordinate with the U.S. chaps (Airmen at Creech AFB) to 'grab' the
plane from us when it's at the right height and going the right way for
them," said Major Gambold.

"In order for the Air Force to have the capability to remotely fly
aircraft from the other side of the planet, first they need to have them
safely in the air, which is our primary mission here," said Staff Sgt.
Lance Nettrouer, 361st ERS sensor operator.

"But we also provide short notice, time sensitive ISR and strike
capability to our counterparts," said Sergeant Nettrouer who is also
deployed from the 15th RS.

The Predator provides live video, still photographs, and radar imagery
in all weather conditions, day or night. Using satellite data links, the
information gathered by a Predator can be shared instantaneously with
commanders around the world. The aircraft can also employ two
laser-guided Hellfire anti-tank missiles.

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