Our Defenders: Air Force

By Brian Entin - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - There's a lot more to the Air Force in Savannah than meets the eye.

Of course they are pilots, but they are also teachers and forecasters. There are four Air Force units in Savannah. Tucked in the back corner of Hunter Army Airfield is the 117th Air Control Squadron.

Detachment Commander Lieutenant Colonel Ron Speir says his unit is known as stealth.

"Using that call sign stealth we like to think we are the stealth in Savannah and the Georgia National Guard. We're sort of hidden back here at Hunter and hidden from the public's view," Lt. Col. Speir said.

The 117th uses radar to control aircraft. They were deployed to Southwest Asia earlier this year where they supported the air war in Afghanistan.

Their deployable units can be dropped off anywhere in the world.

"We're basically air space wholesales. The aircraft tell us where they want to fly and at what altitude and we get them in there and block off that area and don't let any other aircraft in the area," Lieutenant Colonel Speir said.

The 18th Weather Squadron is also at Hunter and keeps aircraft away from storms.

There's only 11 meteorologists in the unit, but the battlefield weather airmen and women provide all the Third Infantry Division, Hunter and Fort Stewart with forecasts.

"We are really small but it makes us more tight nit. We do all our tactical training here. We're different from the regular Air Force Unit because we are assigned with the army and we need to train and do everything like the army does," Captain Kimberly Spusta said.

Also different from the regular Air Force is the Combat Readiness Training Center at the Savannah Hilton Head International Airport.

It's the only place in the world that teaches airmen how to set up communications equipment anywhere.

"You'll box up the equipment. You see right here, put it on a pallet, fly it on an Air Force plane anywhere you want and build a network for a commander fighting a war somewhere," Captain Ryan Hampton said.

Right down the road is Savannah's 165th Airlift Wing.

One thousand airmen are in the unit and 750 of those are in the Air National Guard.

"We go into unimproved runways that are shorter distances than normal. We also do air drops…especially in the really austere areas where this is no other way to get the supplies or equipment in there," Col. Jesse Simmons said.

Three quarters of the unit are guardsmen.

"It's really a calling for them. They aren't making a lot of money. They definitely have a calling that they follow," Col. Simmons said.

And it's a calling for all four units of the Air Force in Savannah.

Some are better known than others, but all are equally important to keeping us safe.

Copyright 2010 WTOC. All rights reserved.