Deployed aviation troops man state of art operations center
Sgt. Kevin Averre (left) and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Anthony Campbell look at a computer in the tactical operations center of the Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. The operations center tracks aviation operations across the country, as well as maintains situational awareness for the brigade's commander. Averre and Campbell are assigned to the brigade's headquarters company. (Photo by Spc. Roland Hale)

CAMP TAJI, Iraq - The setting is straight from any Hollywood imagining of a futuristic war room, if that room were in Iraq.

The walls of the Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division's tactical operations center are covered mostly in maps, easily the simplest technology used in the state of the art war room. The rest of the operations center is technology galore.

Furnished with secret computers, flight trackers, radios, and digital animations, one needs a security clearance to even enter the building. The operations center is staffed by about a dozen soldiers at a time whose specialties range from intelligence to air defense, but their mission is the same: to be the eyes and ears of a brigade whose operations span across all Iraq.

Spc. Steven Switzer, native of Salisbury, Md., works in the brigade's intelligence section. In most ways, his job is to be the eyes for the commander, he said.

"I track the enemy," said Switzer. "Our purpose is to let everyone else know what threats are out there."

Switzer and other intelligence analysts working in the operations center man a small work station from which they can instantly receive intelligence from the field and disseminate threat reports to the rest of the brigade.

In an environment where every second and detail can make a difference, the intelligence analysts rarely leave their station.

"It involves a lot of attention to detail and patience," said Switzer.

Spc. Paulette Dabney, native of Chesapeake, Va., has a similar job. Working nearby Switzer, Dabney is a radio telephone operator, or RTO. Along with another RTO and a supervisor, her job is to track and monitor aircraft flying around Baghdad.

"Our main focus is around central Iraq," said Dabney, "but we have our eyes on just about everything flying in the country."

The RTOs use several tools to track the flights, including instant messaging software that communicates with other operations centers in the country.

"I'll have at least seven chat windows open at the same time," said Dabney.

"We monitor it all," she said. "We don't want to lose track of a bird."

Spc. Bradley Kelly, native of Ripley, W.Va., often works hand in hand with the RTOs. At another station next to theirs, he monitors restricted flight zones for the aircraft.

"One of the biggest things I do is check to see if there are updates on where the aircraft can't fly," said Kelly.

Behind the personnel tracking the flights and intelligence information sit senior staff members whose responsibilities range from managing current operations to keeping the brigade's commander updated on missions. In the center of the room is a half-octagon shaped desk, from which the officer in charge of the floor, or battle captain, monitors operations.

The operations center will change hands this spring, when the eCAB, 1st Inf. Div., returns to Fort Riley, Kan., after completing its year-long tour here.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16