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Service members bring electronic warfare to the ground in Iraq

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Since 2006, sailors and airmen trained as Electronic Warfare Officers have been helping the Marine Corps protect themselves against improvised explosive devices.

Joint Counter Radio Controlled IED Warfare Composite Squadron One was formed in Baghdad in May 2006 with the mission to bring the electronic warfare fight to the ground after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, then the chief of naval operations, advised Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Gen. George Casey, the former Multi-National Force - Iraq commander, that the Navy’s skills in electronic countermeasures could be expanded to protect service members in Iraq. Since that time, hundreds of sailors and airmen trained as EWOs have been dispersed throughout the country, training and mentoring Marines on the operations of electronic countermeasure systems. To this day, JCCS-1 remains responsible for fielding, training and maintaining electronic countermeasure systems used in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. EWOs that directly support United States Force - West still have the tasks of maintaining and overseeing the electronic countermeasure systems in the region, but their primary responsibility is to teach Marines how to properly operate the systems. “We give the Marines the ability to counter the threat and potentially save lives,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Dean Sonnenberg, an EWO who has been assigned to II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group (Forward) since August 2009. “Working side by side with Marines is an exhilarating experience.” Air Force 1st Lt. Justin Ellsworth, an EWO previously assigned to Camp Al Taqaddum, regularly rides along on patrols and convoys to monitor the Marines’ use of the systems.  “Serving with the Marines has been an incredible experience,” he said.  “These Marines are the true warriors, and I am just pleased that I am able to support them as an EWO.”  Throughout their partnership with EWOs, Marines have learned many valuable and mission-essential lessons. “Working with the EWOs here aboard Al Asad has given us a number of new insights into the electronic warfare fight and has called our attention to a number of techniques and procedures we never would have otherwise considered,” explained 1st Lt. Steven Baldino, executive officer of Company B, 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion.  “It is especially important that we all work hard to ensure we make use of every asset at our disposal to keep the Marines safe.”