OGDEN — The 169th Intelligence Squadron gathers information on the enemy from a plane high above the battlefield. With highly-trained linguists and analysts on board, they then share that intelligence with our troops. But their budget is slated to be cut in 12 days and every member of Utah's congressional delegation signed a letter to the Secretary of the Air Force, making a case to keep funding their mission.
The personnel are elite members of the guard who live in Utah's communities. Their equipment is a state-of-the art.
"We refer to [the Senior Scout] as a shelter, because we actually put airborne operators inside the box," said Lt. Col. Jonathan Boyd.
The Senior Scout is a mobile office for airborne intelligence gathering. The plane flies over enemy territory, picking up signals and transmissions. Boyd is the commander of the 169th.
"We provide real-time battlefield and strategic intelligence to our U.S. and coalition forces."
"We provide real-time battlefield and strategic intelligence to our U.S. and coalition forces," Boyd said.
Master Sgt. Nick Batura speaks Arabic and an Afghan language, and translates messages intercepted from the enemy. He's surprised the unit is slated for divestiture.
"It's just crazy because of the products that we're able to provide to the war-fighters," Batura said.
The unit has deployed every year since 9/11. The airmen say that they love their jobs, and they know that they're making a difference in the war zone.
"Soldiers who we've supported come running up to us giving us hugs, giving us kudos, telling us that we saved them or their friends from being destroyed," Batura said.
"Soldiers who we've supported come running up to us giving us hugs, giving us kudos, telling us that we saved them or their friends from being destroyed."
"It's the sense of satisfaction of helping people and helping our brothers and sisters in arms," said Master Sgt. Chalain Glade.
Air Force inspectors recently graded the program "excellent", the highest marks for any intelligence unit in the past year. In 2005, it received this award as the best of its kind in the Air Force.
"We were not only doing it as well as our active duty counterparts, we were doing it better than most of them," Boyd said.
Congressman Rob Bishop delivered a letter to the Secretary of the Air Force. It cites Air Force data that "costs would be greater" running this mission in the active duty Air Force. Legislators point to "a stunning lack of strategic foresight resulting in increased costs and less capability to the intelligence community."
For the members of the 169th, saving their mission is a matter of pride.
"There's some information they may have that they didn't have before, and we're hoping that they maybe change course on this one," Boyd said.
The issue is currently under review by the Secretary of the Air Force.