MQ-9 squadron earns AFA honors for innovation, lethality

By Capt. Annabel Monroe 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

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The 89th Attack Squadron earned the Air Force Association’s 2018 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Trophy Sept. 17, 2018, at the Air, Space and Cyberspace conference held Sept. 17-19, at National Harbor.

Select members of the 89th Attack Squadron accepted the award from Secretary of the Air Force Dr. Heather Wilson, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth Wright and F. Whitten Peters, AFA Chairman of the Board.

The 89th ATKS was first in the Department of Defense to fly the MQ-9 Reaper Block 5 in combat. Aircrew and intelligence analysts were essential in freeing 1.5 million civilians from the clutches of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in 2017.

Skilled aircrew, Block 30 cockpit incorporation, and multi-ship close air support initiatives contributed to a dramatic increase of strike efficiency according to the Combined Air Operations Center.

“Our unit provided the sole Air Force MQ-9 support to coalition forces as they advanced through eastern Mosul, Iraq. Our Close Air Support and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance efforts helped advance friendly coalition forces into the western half of Mosul,” said Michael. “This was the right combination of high-quality, innovative people, unique combat opportunities that highlighted our CAS capabilities, and historical timing of new equipment that led to such a spectacular year of achievement and advancement for the enterprise."

During the conference, the RPA community was a critical component to discussions focusing on force structure, improving readiness, developing joint leaders, multi-domain operations and command and control.

Aircrew from Creech, Ellsworth, Holloman and Whiteman Air Force Bases represented the MQ-9 community at an informational booth on the exhibition floor of the conference.

As the largest conference in AFA history, approximately nine thousand people attended the symposium and learned about persistent attack and reconnaissance capabilities.

RPA missions are among the most requested capability of combatant commanders across the globe. Pioneering innovative employment and engagement procedures keep RPAs on the cutting edge of innovation.

"When I was stationed in Iraq in 2016-2017, I had the privilege to meet Iraqi children freed from the clutches of ISIS," said Col. Julian Cheater, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. "I'm proud of the men and women of the 89th ATKS for winning this prestigious award, but I'm even prouder of their contributions to save lives of U.S. forces and foreign partners, as well as safeguarding our freedom."