Air Force Featured Stories

Reservist has key role in Global Hawk mission over Nigeria

  • Published
  • By Dana Lineback
  • 940th Wing Public Affairs
ABC, NBC and PBS reported last month the Pentagon had confirmed the United States was flying high-altitude surveillance military aircraft over northeastern Nigeria in search of more than 250 kidnapped schoolgirls.

For Lt. Col. Allen, the national headlines were not news.

The Air Force reservist stationed at Beale Air Force Base, California, is an RQ-4 mission planner and instructor pilot. He was on duty as the operations supervisor when a high-level request came in from a combatant commander asking to extend a mission that was about to "head home" to it's deployed location.

"This was an opportunity to showcase what the Global Hawk and its crew are capable of in response to a real-world situation, providing immediate assistance to our NATO allies," Allen said.

Extending on-station time required a rapid calculation of the aircraft's remaining fuel, assessment of projected weather conditions and coordination of crew scheduling with the forward operating location.

Allen prioritized the issues, developed a plan, and consulted each element involved. Once subject matter experts had weighed in, the chain of command made the final decision to extend the mission.

"We were able to respond in a timely way and executed the mission in a safe and orderly manner, bringing down information that could be immediately interpreted. Instant feedback was provided."

Beyond the satisfaction of a successful mission, Allen said the tasking to overfly Nigeria touched him on a personal level.

"I have a young daughter myself. If someone took her, I'd feel devastated and at a loss."

Allen said that, as an American citizen, he was deeply troubled by the violation of basic human rights.

"I find it bothersome that people's liberties - these young girls' liberty - can be taken away like that. I hope that, in some way, I was able to contribute to the safe return of those girls to their families."

Reservists from the 13th Reconnaissance Squadron, including Allen, are an integrated part of the RQ-4 total force enterprise mission at Beale. Several have been directly involved in RQ-4 operations supporting numerous disaster relief efforts in recent years, including California wildfires, the Haitian earthquake, Japan's earthquake and tsunami, and most recently, in the typhoon-struck Philippine Islands.

Allen said he appreciates the opportunity to embed with the active duty mission as an RQ-4 instructor pilot, mission planner and aircraft commander.

"As reservists, we contribute our expertise to key roles of training and active duty mission execution."

Like many reservists, he began his military career on active duty, serving nine years as a KC-135 and T-43 pilot. In his eight years as a reservist, he has flown both the C-5 and the RQ-4, deploying twice.

In his civilian employment, he's a pilot for a major airline. Combined military and commercial flying, the veteran pilot has logged more than 10,000 total flight hours.

"The reservist of yesterday was not as directly involved with their active duty counterparts. Today, we're working alongside the active duty, often leading the missions," Allen said. "I'm grateful to my leadership for the opportunity to serve in this capacity, and I'm thankful to my civilian employer for supporting my Reserve commitment by affording me the time to serve."