First 606th airmen return home; more to follow shortly
August 27, 2003
The first airmen from one of the units that helped kill Saddam Hussein’s sons have started returning to Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany.
Lt. Col. Scott Fischer, commander of the 606th Air Control Squadron, said 30 members of the squadron returned last week from Iraq. Fischer hoped the unit’s other 80 airmen would return in September or October.
That decision, however, rests on the needs of commanders still in Iraq, Fischer said.
The 606th ACS arrived in Iraq in May with 360 tons of equipment and went to Kirkuk air base, where it became the first air control squadron to operate in the country during Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to a press release from the 52nd Fighter Wing.
The airmen’s jobs included providing an around-the-clock picture of the skies to the operations center in Qatar, coordinating incoming and outgoing aircraft, and managing refueling and communications for close-air support attacks.
After getting equipment and personnel into place, the unit settled into a quiet but busy routine.
In July, the unit was called upon to coordinate the refueling of two inbound A-10s, which then took off for Mosul and participated in the July 22 attack that killed Saddam’s sons Odai and Qusai. The unit also relayed close- air-support information between Air Force pilots in the sky and Army units on the ground.
“It was the epitome of air-battle management,” Fischer said. “You ask the questions, ‘What is it? Can I do anything to expedite this request?’ My folks thought on their feet under time pressure and performed superbly.”
Fischer said the work his airmen did everyday prepared them for the Mosul mission.
“When something like [the Mosul operation] comes up and people need to step in — in most cases in very time-critical situations — it’s not something where you can pull out a check list,” Fischer said. “You have to think, respond and coordinate with other agencies.”
Fischer credited Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Scott and the man in charge of the unit’s air controllers, Maj. Gene Hughes of the 123rd ACS from Cincinnati, Ohio, with tying the mission together.
One of the officers of the 606th ACS observed the experience proved the importance of staying ready during wartime even when things seem calm.
“A lot of times, we were wondering, ‘It’s so quiet. Nothing’s going on. Why don’t they send us home?’” Capt. Milad Youssef, the 606th ACS air battle manager, said in a press release.
“We kept our heads in the business — everyday, even when it was quiet. Then, out of the blue, to catch [Odai and Qusai Hussein] ... We had our best controller working it: Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Scott. He took care of business.”