From concept to combat

  • Published
  • By Christopher J. Warner
U.S. service members cross paths in several ways throughout their career, whether it be a deployment, Department of Defense (DOD) School, or a joint-service assignment, exposure is pretty regular. This had been my experience during my career as a U.S. Army infantryman, I worked with Marines, Airmen and sailors but I never gave much thought to equipment that I was exposed to during real world deployments or in support of daily operations.

After my uniformed career, I transitioned into a DOD civilian public affairs career. As I began to learn my craft and tell the Army’s story, I began to reflect upon my service with much fondness and introspect which allowed me to gain a much needed perspective of the larger picture.

With this new found perspective I was able to see the connection between all of the services and how each military occupational specialty is intertwined with each other and cannot operate alone.

Going back to my desire to see the big picture I decided I needed to broaden myself professionally and what better way to do that than work for another branch of the military. As of June 25, 2017, which happened to be AEDC’s 66th anniversary, I started my current assignment as the Operations Chief at the Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) Public Affairs office at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn. As part of joining the AEDC team, I began to read about the AEDC and Arnold AFB history and it was then that I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment. I realized that I have flown on, worked around and been directly supported by several of the platforms that were tested or developed by AEDC.

I believe it is important for service members, the American public and the companies that support the U.S. military to understand how they as a whole support and contribute to combat operations, our military’s strategic missions and goals. Working for AEDC gives me a unique perspective in understanding how much hard work and development truly went into working on a program to take it from a concept and build it into a platform that is able to perform in combat, save lives and meet the high demands of daily military operations.

As a former soldier, I have an appreciation of the huge part the U.S. Air Force played in transporting equipment, moving troops into combat battle spaces and support ground combat with close air support and reconnaissance.

Early in my career, I attended the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga. where I jumped out of the C-130 Hercules and C-141 Starlifter. Both of these aircraft were the work horses of the airborne community until the C-141 was retired from service in 2006. I find it fascinating that the C-141 program was tested and developed here in 1978 and in 2001, I was jumping out of it.

During my deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom, 07-08, I flew in and out of Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) on the C-17 Globemaster, tested and developed here in 1983. I am always impressed when I set foot in a C-17 with its size and lift capability. Whether its troops, equipment or vehicle platforms the C-17 can get it into a battle space with ease.

In one specific instance I was flying out of BIAP on a C-130 and we received enemy air-to-ground fire. I was absolutely astonished at the pilot’s ability to evasively maneuver the C-130 and just how fast and powerful that aircraft is when under fire. To this day I still get goosebumps when I think back on that day.

Another AEDC test and development program which supported my unit and many others in theater was the RQ-4 Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), tested and developed here in 1995. Whenever my unit needed reconnaissance on an area-of-interest for an upcoming ground combat operation, my leadership could view video footage of an objective for planning purposes and develop a real-time understanding of a situation on the ground. It was always a relief knowing that an UAS was available to support ground operations for mission success.

My all-time favorite aircraft and AEDC test and development program is the A-10 Thunderbolt “Warthog”. This air platform has a special place in infantrymen’s and soldier’s hearts. When you’re in the middle of a firefight and you hear or see the A-10 come onto station and you hear its signature ‘Brrrrtttttt’ sound from the GAU-8 Avenger 30 mm cannon it is like an angel descending from the heavens. I and my infantry brethren always knew things would be okay when the A-10 was supporting us from above.

I find myself somewhat humbled working for the organization where these programs were tested and developed from concept then put into a platform capable of giving the U.S. military the dominate strategic advantage and global strike capability. Without the hard work, dedication and expertise of the past and present AEDC staff these aircraft may not have been available to support my units and me during my career. For that I am truly thankful!

I am excited about my future with AEDC and I welcome the opportunity to tell the Air Force, AEDC and individual team member’s stories.

If you have a story or team member you’d like to highlight, please contact us at 454-3889.