Scorpion’s Last Strike: Aviano Squadron Returns From Final Deployment Before Deactivation


19, 2013 as they returned home from their final deployment in Southwest Asia before the squadron is inactivated later this year. “I’m so happy to be here,” said Airman 1st Class Amanda Harrell, 603rd Air Control Squadron surveillance technician. “It was great to be deployed. It was tough work, but we got it done. I’ve never been happier.” The 603rd ACS, one of two Air Force theater air control systems in Europe, is being inactivated as part of a larger effort to help meet Budget Control Act resource levels. The squadron has had a rich history with its roots reaching back to the very beginnings of the Air Force. It was first activated Dec. 31, 1945, under the U.S. Army Air Corps. The squadron’s early years provided air control for major air operations from World War II to include supporting the Berlin Airlift. Since 9/11, the squadron’s operations have been essential to providing deployed Airmen to control the skies over Afghanistan and Iraq. The squadron also supported Operation New Dawn and operations in the Horn of Africa, said Lt. Col. Stephen Carocci, who is both the commander for the 71st EACS and the 603 ACS. “I had a majority of my squadron deployed in Southwest Asia, who on a daily basis provide battle management and command and control over the skies of Afghanistan and support for the Gulf region,” Carocci said. “While it will be sad knowing this squadron is making its last deployment, I know it’s in the best interests of the Air Force as a whole for the squadron to be deactivated.” Since the start of the squadron’s deployment in July, the squadron controlled 129,000 miles of airspace, assisted in 50,000 combat missions, controlled 41,000 aircraft and supported three rescue missions. Seeing this direct impact on the war effort makes being a member of the 603rd ACS a unique experience for its Airmen. “Coming from a career field where it isn’t a guarantee to be a part of an air control squadron, has made this assignment meaningful,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jamie Kitchen, assigned to the 603rd ACS since October 2008. “Being able to go on these deployments, getting steel on target and supporting the guys on the ground who need air support, is what makes this special.” Unfortunately, the squadron also had to deal with personal tragedy when it came to supporting the war on terrorism. Airman 1st Class Antoine Holt lost his life during a mortar attack and Senior Airman Scott Palomino lost his left leg below the knee during the same attack while they were deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq, in April 2004. A memorial plaque was dedicated to Holt at the Italian based squadron in 2006.
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