Soldier, 19, Tracks Afghan Airspace
By Army Spc. Brandon Sandefur
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2008
While many young men his age are just thinking about their next step in life, 19-year-old Army Pvt. Ryan Masterson is keeping an eye on the airspace in a combat zone.
Masterson, from McHenry, Ill., is an aviation operations specialist for the Air Defense and Airspace Management Cell here.
[caption id="attachment_3085" align="alignleft" width="250"] Army Pvt. Ryan Masterson, aviation operations specialist with the 1st Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, responds to a call from an outlying unit. Masterson tracks the airspace for all the brigade's units so they get supplies and air support when needed. U.S. Army photo[/caption]
"We track the airspace for our brigade's area of operations and get real-time video feeds of what's going on with our airspace," he explained. "It gives us a better idea of where each aircraft is and what they are doing so we can track everything a lot better."
Masterson, who has been in the Army a little more than two years, coordinates air support with troops on the ground via radio and phone systems. He coordinates through a liaison officer to find out what the soldiers on the ground need -- whether it's air support, supplies or reconnaissance flights from unmanned aerial vehicles. "We track the airspace for our brigade's area of operations and get real-time video feeds of what's going on with our airspace," he explained. "It gives us a better idea of where each aircraft is and what they are doing so we can track everything a lot better."
"We make sure that the infantry soldiers have whatever they need as far as air support," he said, whether it's firepower from an Apache attack helicopter or a Chinook helicopter delivery of food or water.
Masterson said he rarely has a free moment while working, but that he finds the job very rewarding. With his limited free time, he said, he likes to watch movies, go to the gym and talk to his family on the Internet.
But when free time is over, Masterson is all business, and he said he feels good about what he does.
"It's good to know that you played a role in winning a battle or helping soldiers by getting them the air support or supplies they needed," he said. "I think it's a good feeling to know that I may have helped some soldiers and possibly save some lives by getting them what they needed as fast as I could."
Masterson plays an important roll in the majority of operations that require air assets -- which, considering Afghanistan's terrain, is almost every operation.
"He is very important to the ADAM Cell and continues to improve on a daily basis," said Army Staff Sgt. Simeon Burns, from Oakland, Calif., Masterson's supervisor. "He's tactically and technically proficient at his job."
Masterson said he wants to pursue a career in law enforcement when his military service is finished, but that for now he's happy to be part of a team that controls the skies over Afghanistan.
(Army Spc. Brandon Sandefur serves with the 1st Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)
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