June 14th, 2006 12:53 EST
Joint Prowler team jams at Northern Edge 2006 by Senior Airman Garrett Hothan
ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AFPN) -- The sight of four crewmembers climbing out of a Navy EA-6B Prowler here on the flightline during Northern Edge 2006 is not unusual. However, when one of those four crewmembers is carrying the blue flight cap of an Air Force officer instead of Navy khaki, something might be amiss.
But that is not the case. In fact, a joint air crew is nothing out of the ordinary for Navy Prowler squadrons like Tactical Electronics Warfare Squadron 134 (VAQ-134) from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash. The EA-6B supports all services by providing electronic escort and a command and control platform for strike missions. In order to support joint missions worldwide, the Navy calls on crewmembers from all services to help operate the aircraft.
“It has been a good experience working with the Navy and seeing how they operate,” said Capt. Jeff Long, a VAQ-134 electronic countermeasure officer, or ECO. Captain Long is one of two Air Force officers assigned to three Prowlers participating in Northern Edge 2006.
“The future implementation and success of electronic warfare in a joint atmosphere is dependent on the communication skills of our personnel,” he said.
His Navy counterparts agree that the acronyms, jargon and cultures of the two services can be the biggest challenge to working together, both in exercises and the real world.
“Communication and administration are the biggest road blocks to our interoperability. Exercises like Northern Edge break down that barrier,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kyle Campbell, a VAQ-134 ECO.
The importance of learning the ins and outs of other services is apparent when people with joint experience are sought out for information. Lt. Cmdr. Joe Vandelac, VAQ-134 logistics officer, said that he often gets calls requesting assistance from other Navy personnel due to his experience working with the Air Force.
“The key is finding what works and learning from each other, then walking away with your lessons learned and doing things better in the future,” he said.
“Every conflict in the future will be done in a joint environment,” Commander Campbell said.
And despite a friendly rivalry between Navy and Air Force crewmembers during Northern Edge, the crew enjoys personal relationships that transcend service designations. Just after the mission, the crew all went to lunch together, khaki caps and blue ones.
“I look forward to bringing back these experiences to my squadron,” Captain Long said.
Exercise Northern Edge, which runs June 5 to 16, is a U.S. Pacific Command exercise that prepares joint forces to respond to crises in the Asian Pacific region. The exercise is an opportunity for participating units to sharpen skills; practice operations, techniques and procedures; improve command, control and communication relationships; and develop interoperable plans and programs.