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Brains of the Operation

Secret cover sheets are handled by an Intel analyst with the 169th Operations Support Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., June 14, 2015.  
(S.C. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago/RELEASED)

Secret cover sheets are handled by an Intel analyst with the 169th Operations Support Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., June 14, 2015. (S.C. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago/RELEASED)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kyle Baker, active associate Intel analyst with the 169th Operations Support Squadron, views a computer screen at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C. June 14, 2015.  
(S.C. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago/RELEASED)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kyle Baker, active associate Intel analyst with the 169th Operations Support Squadron, views a computer screen at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C. June 14, 2015. (S.C. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago/RELEASED)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- Having situational awareness is an integral part of mission success for the Airmen of the South Carolina Air National Guard; and the Airmen of the 169th Operations Support Squadron Intelligence Section play a critical role to support the Swamp Fox team.

"Our primary mission here is to support the F-16 aircraft, both in real-world situations and in training," said Staff Sgt. Kyle Baker, intelligence analyst assigned to the 169th OSS. "For training, we act as additional academic resources for our pilots. We brief threat systems that could attack our F-16's as well as how our F-16's can be used to defend against things such as surface to air missiles, enemy aircraft and different types of missiles."

These trained personnel gather, assess and analyze intelligence information from within the U.S. Air Force as well as other government intelligence agencies.  The information is compiled and used to brief Airmen of various situations they might encounter on their deployments. 

"We want to make sure our personnel are aware of the real-world threats they are stepping into, so they can take precautions necessary to be safe and remain vigilant," said Baker.

The mission does not end after the jets take off.  Once the pilots land, an intelligence analyst debriefs the pilots after each mission.  This includes talking about what occurred on the mission and ensuring that mission details are documented and shared with higher headquarters.  This is then recorded for historical data and shared throughout the U.S. Air Force to assist in developing newer tactics that should result in the continued improvement of pilot training and situational awareness.

The National Guard's unique dual role in federal and state operations is also strengthened from the support provided by the 169th OSS Intelligence Section.  Their unique skillset in identifying and reporting security threats is valuable to emergency response agencies as they respond to natural disasters.

Intelligence analyst, Senior Airman Taylor Hall had the opportunity to participate in joint military operations last March during the multi-state exercise, Vigilant Guard 2015. Hall provided intelligence support from the South Carolina National Guard Joint Operations Center at the State Emergency Operations Center in West Columbia as it responded to the aftermath of a simulated Category 4 hurricane.

"It was a great synergy between Army and Air Force working together to identify local hazards," said Hall.  "These threats included crime, structural and flooding damages and electrical outages that can occur in natural disasters."

Situational awareness can be difficult to perceive and recognize. As intelligence analysts peel back layers of information, they help us understand how we need to survive and operate in any potential hostile environment at home and abroad.