Savannah – I’ve finally had the chance to research a mystery aircraft that has been in the area for the last month and a half or so. In August, I began to hear and see (on Mode-S) a Beechcraft King Air 350 operating out of Hunter AAF using the callsign SUNNY, which is the callsign used by B/224 MI Bn at Hunter. The aircraft didn’t show up on Mode-S like the unit’s RC-12s have and I eventually realized that it was showing up on Mode-S as: A87E06 – King Air 350, N6461F, PM/ARES/US ARMY. I wasn’t familiar with the US Army PM/ARES so I had to do a bit of research and discovered it stood for Project Manager Airborne Reconnaissance and Exploitation Systems. Further research led me to discover that this aircraft is probably a EMARSS aircraft.
EMARSS is based on the C-12/King Air 350 airframe and is one of the Army’s latest Special Electronic Mission Aircraft. Unlike the RC-12, which is a COMINT/ELINT platform, the EMARSS adds electro-optical, infared, and video capability along with other communications capabilities. I also came upon an unclassified budget document on the web that indicated with the FY15 budget, funds were being allocated to assign 2 QRC EMARSS aircraft with two the three US Army Aerial Exploitation Battalions, of which the 224 MI Bn is one. Based on a wikipedia article, in August 2013, two EMARSS aircraft were delivered to the Aberdeen Testing Ground for testing and calibration prior to delivery.
I haven’t been able to find anything to definitively state that N6461F is an EMARSS aircraft but looking at the above, it isn’t very hard to add 2+2 and get 4. I’m guessing that 224 MI Bn is one of the two AEBs to get one of the EMARSS aircraft. This is definitely one to follow if you’re an aviation geek.
Given that we’ve begun the centennial of World War I and the ongoing situation in the Middle East, Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson is a timely book. The “in” in the title is not a misprint nor is it a mistake, this book is not about Lawrence of Arabia, it indeed is about Lawrence IN Arabia. The first part of the title doesn’t describe what this book is about as much the second part of the title does. T.E. Lawrence definitely played a large part in the Middle Eastern theater of World War I but the book isn’t as much about Lawrence as it is his place in the war and how World War I molded the modern Middle East and the troubles we have there now. Although I took a Middle Eastern History course in college, I am not well read on World War I in the Middle East and that is one of the reasons I wanted to read this book; it was obviously a pivotal time in the region and it is one that is given precious little space or coverage in many World War I histories.
In World War I, as today, many parties had an interest in the Middle East and in what would remain of the rapidly disintegrating Ottoman Empire. The British, French, Germans, the Turks, the Arabs, the Jews, Oil Companies, and eventually the United States all had designs on what would become of the “Great Loot,” as the remnants of the Ottoman Empire came to be known. To tell this story, Anderson builds “Lawrence in Arabia” concentrates on four historical figures. The first, and primary figure is T.E. Lawrence. The other three are German diplomat Kurt Prufer, Jewish Agronomist and activist Aaron Aaronsohn, and American William Yale who served Socony, the State Department, and as a military attaché during the period. While it is fascinating to read how the stories of these four intertwine, it is the activity of Lawrence and Aaronsohn that prove to be the most interesting and have the most impact upon the region. Through the actions of these men and others such as Sykes, Picot, Weizmann, Balfour, Djemal, Hussein, and Faisal to organize Arab Revolt, split (or prevent the split) of the region between Great Britain and France, and to create a Jewish Homeland in Palestine we learn how the current state of Middle Eastern affairs came to be. War, deceit, and Imperial folly are clearly laid out in detail.
Scott doesn’t treat Lawrence with hero worship or present him in a hagiographic way. He presents the book’s primary personality in a balanced and objective way. T.E. Lawrence achieved great things and they are described and explained, but he also had his flaws and those are explored as well. In a way, Lawrence seems to be a tragic hero. He fought to gain Arab independence as part of the fight against the Ottomans and Germans and while defeating the Ottomans and Germans, he lost the fight for Arab Independence despite what some would argue was committing treasonous acts against his own. He predicted and foreshadowed some of what would result from the conflict between the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence, the Balfour Declaration, and the post war partition of the Middle East. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to watch his predictions come to pass. It’s no wonder he declined a knighthood after the war.
“Part of the enduring fascination with T.E. Lawrence’s story is the series of painful “what if?” questions it raises, a pondering over what the world lost when he lost. What would have happened if, in 1918, the Arabs had been able to create the greater Arab nation that many so desperately sought, and which they believed had been promise to them? How different would the Middle East look today if the early Zionists in postwar Palestine had been able to negotiate with a man like Faisal Hussein, who had talked of “the racial kinship and ancient bonds that existed between Jew and Arab? And what of the Americans? Today, it scarcely seems conceivable that there was a time when the Arab and Muslim worlds were clamoring for American intervention in their lands; what might have happened if the United States had risen to the opportunity presented at the end of World War 1?
In all probability, not quite the golden age some might imagine. As Lawrence himself frequently stated, the notion of a true pan-Arab nation was always something of a mirage, the differences between its radically varied cultures far greater than what united them.”
If you take a balanced look at the Middle East and the decisions made during and after the war, you can’t solely blame the Imperialist powers. There is plenty of blame to apportion on all sides, but Imperialism on the part of the victors most certainly contributed to future wars in the Middle East and the instability and unrest that plague the region to this day. When you look at the history of World War I in the Middle East, you can understand how not just the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, and the Balfour Agreement, but the way they were conceived and brought about created the Arab distrust of the West that we still deal with today. In Anderson’s words: “it was then that one particularly toxic seed was planted.”
This book was an extraordinary read, I found it hard to put down and frequently lost track of time while reading it. It is a history that almost read like a spy novel. Anderson developed the four major figures in the book and did an excellent job explaining the relationships between all of the various players and how their intrigues impacted the big picture. Unfortunately, I read the Kindle version. Typical of many Kindle books, there were no maps. When dealing with an area that many are not familiar with and particularly when dealing with military campaigns, maps are essential in being able to understand the space and scope of operations. For this reason, I have to give the book four stars instead of five. If the print version has maps which help you understand the relationships and positioning of Arab and Allied forces against Ottoman/German forces and distances and scales of movement of Arab guerrilla style operations, it rates five starts. Even so, I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about World War I or Middle Eastern history.
It is books like this one that help reinforce my belief that we need to move away from teaching a Western Eurocentric view of history in our schools. We need to look at history from the view of other cultures as well. In this instance, how did the Arabs view the Middle Eastern theater of World War I? How did it impact their thinking and decision making going forward? Not only do we need to present other viewpoints, we need to quit teaching history as simply a list of events. Instead of looking at history in a vacuum and considering things as isolated events, we should look at how wars, treaties, decisions, and other events are influenced by previous events and how they impact things to come. It is a disservice to ourselves and future generations. Looking at history and explaining events strictly from a Western European viewpoint and in isolation leads to a simplistic and biased view and prevents an objective and balanced appreciation of them. Without that objective and balanced appreciation of events we can’t expect ourselves to be able to find a solution to the complex problems we face as result of those historical events.
Savannah – An SEGARRN (Southeast Georgia Regional Radio Network) site for Effingham County has been licensed and is active. I’m not sure how long the site has been active because I don’t get to the Effingham area as much as I used to, but the license, WQUL874, was granted and effective as of 12 August 2014. Naturally, this is a good thing for public safety agencies in Effingham County and the northwest part of Chatham County using the system, but it could also benefit Bulloch County if they attempt another move to the SEGARRN system. It’s also good news for radio enthusiasts listening to the system in those areas.
The Effingham site for the system is Site 6 (2C5-0106) and is simulcast like the rest of the SEGARRN sites. WQUL874 licenses Effingham County for seven frequency pairs at three tower locations, but the frequencies you’ll need to program your scanner for the site are the output frequencies:
- 770.10625 – Control Channel
When I’ve monitored the site, 770.10625 has been the control channel, but even if you’re using control channel trunking only, I would still program in the other frequencies in case they rotate. I have not been able to monitor the site with Trunker yet so I haven’t been able to determine any further. It should be fairly easy to hear the Effingham site from most locations in the county; the three tower locations are roughly located central county – located at the main tower site off of Courthouse Rd., south county – located off of GA Highway 21 between Rincon and Port Wentworth, and north county – located off of GA Highway 21 between Springfield and the Effingham/Screven County line.
- Site 1 – Main Tower Site off of Courthouse Rd (Central Effingham)
- Site 2 – GA Highway 21/Elbert Arnsdorff Rd (North Effingham)
- Site 3 – Ga Highway 21/Parkway Dr (South Effingham)
Some Effingham County talkgroups that have begun appearing that are probably related to this new site going live are:
- TG 1083 – Rincon FD Admin
- TG 1637 – Possibly Springfield FD
If they haven’t already, we’ll probably see Effingham migrate from the Chatham-Effingham TRS to the SEGARRN. What does it mean for the Chatham-Effingham TRS? I’m not sure but I imagine we’re a lot closer to it going away that we have been. If you’re still monitoring that system with an older model scanner, you’ll definitely want to start thinking about investing in a digital scanner in order to continue monitoring public safety in the Effingham and Chatham County areas. I have had both systems programmed in my scanners but I am now going to lock out the Chatham-Effingham TRS and only listen to it if I find that I need to; that will be one less system that the radio will need to scan through.
Savannah – Earlier in the week I was given a heads up that F-16s from Oklahoma were visiting Savannah, but I didn’t have a chance to listen on the radio for them until I got back to Savannah this morning. They are indeed from the 138th Fighter Wing, OK ANG and were flying today as TRIBE and BRAVE flights from the Savannah Combat Readiness Training Center to conduct air combat training in the offshore special use areas with F-15s from the 125th Fighter Wing at Jacksonville, FL. They were using the CRTC’s Ops frequency of 237.000 for Ops communications and CRTC frequencies 293.300 and 363.900 for air-to-air. Offshore, they were using 293.600 and 316.300 for training ops with the FL ANG F-15s. It sounds like they may be leaving to go back to Oklahoma over the weekend; SOONR 84, a 137th ARW, OK ANG KC-135 arrived at the CRTC this afternoon. I should be around the radios part of the day tomorrow and if I hear the F-16s head back west, I’ll post an update.
Additionally, some US Navy MH-60Ss from HSC-26 at NAS Norfolk have been at the Savannah CRTC today. There are at least three of them at the CRTC and they’ve been using the callsign CHARGER as well as NAVY HW 6# with Air Traffic Control and while working at Townsend Range. They’ve also been reporting to CRTC Ops on 237.000 when they RTB. Due to their low altitude I couldn’t hear much of their activity at Townsend but it sounded like they were possibly doing some Combat Search and Rescue training. A possible air-to-air during those ops was 282.800. I’m not sure how long they’ve been here or how long they’ll be here for.
Another fun catch today was SWEDE 61, a F-35B from VMFAT-501 at MCAS Beaufort. Today was the first time I’ve heard one of the F-35s since some made the move from Eglin AFB to MCAS Beaufort a few months ago. I also got to see SWEDE 61 as it made an approach to Hunter AAF before going back to MCAS Beaufort. I searched for communications with VMFAT-501 Base as SWEDE 61 went back to Beaufort but I never heard anything. The search for squadron frequencies will continue… It’s not all that good of a photo considering the distance at which I took it from, but here is SWEDE 61 as it flew past the neighborhood on its way to Hunter AAF. Due to the blue flash on the tail, I think it is VM 01 (Bu No 168057).
Savannah – On Wednesday I caught F/A-18Ds from VMFA(AW)-533 departing MCAS Beaufort westbound with tanker support. This afternoon, I came across a DVIDS story that confirmed that it was the squadron leaving on a Unit Deployment Program deployment to the Western Pacific. They departed as FEUD 11-16 and FEUD 21-26 with tanker support for PETRO 61 and PETRO 71 respectively. The first cell, FEUD 1#, was using 352.900 for aerial refueling and the second cell, FEUD 2#, was using 396.200 for aerial refueling. For the mil-spotters, Bu Nos passed for FEUD 2# flight were 164967, 164656, 164872, 164711, 164723, and 164959. I never was able to identify which unit the tankers was from. Here’s the DVIDS story announcing the deployment and giving a heads up on what the unit will be doing while deployed:
Hawks soar to Western Pacific
Story by Cpl. Brendan Roethe
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, also known as the Hawks, deployed to the Western Pacific though the Unit Deployment Program, Sept. 3.
The Hawks will be participating in Exercise Valiant Shield, which focuses on joint training among military forces and builds proficiency in sustaining the military’s ability to detect, locate, track and engage units in the air, at sea, and on land, according to the Congressional Research Service.
To prepare for the deployment, Marines worked countless hours throughout the day and night to ensure everything was ready before departing Fightertown.
“This will be my first deployment, but after a year of long work days and continuous training I am confident in my abilities and look forward to seeing what will be in store for not only myself but the squadron during the next six months,” said Lance Cpl. Eric Harte, an air frame mechanic for VMFA(AW)-533. “I’m excited to work with and become closer to the other Marines in my shop, and see more of what the Marine Corps has to offer.”
The UDP provides opportunities for Marines to train and partner with allies and other branches of service in the Pacific theater, and is a cost-effective way to expose U.S.-based Marine units to various training environments.
“Deployments such as this are great for Marines because they give them the expeditious mindset they will need when they are called to support combat operations in adverse environments,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Richard Lopez, the ordnance officer of VMFA(AW)-533. “Operations here tend to be repetitive for many of the Marines. On this deployment they will be able to experience more and bring those experiences back to Beaufort, where they can apply them and make the squadron as a whole operate more efficiently.”