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Sailors help bridge gap for Soldiers in Baghdad

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- A TACAMO crew from the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing flew over Iraq and acted as a communication liaison between ground personnel Monday.
   In the Middle East, the "Take Charge And Move Out" flies over Iraq to serve as the last means of communication between ground forces.
   "On a larger scale, our job provides open range of communication for personnel involved because everything going on the ground affects each other's mission," said Petty Officer 1st Class Jeremy Shepard, TACAMO flight engineer deployed from Tinker Air Force Base.
   The TACAMO has the capability of staying in the air for long periods of time, so the team flies over Iraq daily, for 12 to 14 hours providing communication.
   "We want it to be a boring day," said the petty officer. "If it's a boring day for us, then our comrades on the ground are not being attacked."
   Two flight crews and communications crew accompanied the flight. The flight crew alternates shifts so adequate crew rest can be provided for flight. The communications crew sits at the same seat for the 12 to 14 hours with no rest.
   "I love to fly," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Soppe, ACS-I, enlisted aviation warefare specialist and naval air crewman. "I like knowing that I am able to help from up in the sky."
   The communications team sits at their seats with their laptops and headsets waiting for a call. The calls normally entail a questionnaire called a Joint Casualty Evacuation Request, otherwise known as a 9-line, which requests that a patient be picked up.
   Questions the communications crew may ask are what the grid coordinates are on the ground as well as the number of patients, special equipment needed, security at pick up site and patient status.
   "This is so those responding know how to properly treat the patient on arrival and where to go" Petty Officer 2nd Class Kasey Bruce, enlisted aviation warfare specialist and naval air crewman.
   Some of the information relayed over the communications channels are medical evacuation, vehicle recovery and slant reports, which relay information as to where a convoy is and where it is going.
   Also when communicating a vehicle request, the communications specialists may ask the grid location of the vehicle, vehicle type, description of incident, detailed description of the damage and checks to see if the area has been swept for mines.
   "It's important that if one guy needs to get a hold of us, we are here," said Chief Petty Officer Jeff Penington.
   Communications are made possible by the crew and a small antenna outside of the aircraft.
   The TACAMO team, all deployed from Tinker, said they feel privileged to implement the training they consistently uphold at home station.
   "It's cool to deploy here to do the job we're trained to do," said Petty Officer Shepard.
   The TACAMO has flown about 200 total missions in Iraq.