71st IS Airmen win 2023 Richard L. Etchberger Team of the Year

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  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The Air Force Reserve specialty code 9S100s from the 71st Intelligence Squadron have been gathering praise from around the 655th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group after the 9S100 Reporting Identifier was awarded the 2023 Richard L. Etchberger Team of the Year. 

The award recognizes one Air Force career field each year for its superior technical achievements and contributions and takes its name from Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger, a radar operator who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War. 

The 71st IS is the only unit in the Air Reserve Component that employs 9S100s, or scientific and technical applications specialists. The career field is distinguished by its high Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) requirements and the breadth of its technical scope.

The 9S100s of the 71st IS support the Geospatial Intelligence group at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC). The group’s commander, Col. Steven Watts, noted “The 9S100 RI is one of the smallest career fields in the Air Force, so it is even more exciting for these professionals to be recognized with this award.”

The burgeoning field of data analytics is one area where the Air Force’s 9S100s have made significant advances, and the 71st IS has provided key players in that effort. Two of the unit’s 9S100s, Senior Master Sgt. William Baez and Tech. Sgt. Cori Gawthrop, lent their expertise in data science and training to help shape the Advanced Data Analytics course that was implemented last year as a regular part of the 9S100 schoolhouse curriculum.

“We want to keep pace with what’s going on in the private sector and we have to keep pace with our adversary’s technical advancements,” Baez said. “If we don’t, we will lose our dominance in the physical and virtual battlespace.”

One 9S100 from the 71st IS applied this training to automate the compilation and analysis of data collected by the Air Force Reserve Command’s Inspector General team. Senior Airman Trent Black spent over three months in 2022 developing a data analysis tool which, applied across 37 wings and 52 inspections, cut out 352 hours of analytical processes, decreasing lead time by 18 percent for 7,000 customers and armed AFRC Commanders with data on-demand.

Tech. Sgt. Claire Newman is another one of the unit’s 9S100s who brought her expertise to bear directly in the battlefield. Newman, who makes her home in Bologna, Italy, spent five months in Ramstein, Germany performing data collection and analysis in support of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe combatant command’s mission in the Ukraine conflict. As the conflict continues, Newman has been green-lit for another five month tour later this year.

Back at home, the 71st has supported their active duty NASIC partners in some of their most technically advanced operations.

 In October 2022, 9S100s from the 71st IS lent their skills in executing the RAPUNZEL 5 ground truth testing project. This NASIC-led collaboration with Air Force Research Lan (AFRL) and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is a multi-year effort to develop remote sensing capabilities and to support the analysts working with current and future sensor platforms.

The 71st IS has also been a key partner with NASIC’s Directed Energy Weapons Flight. Using cutting edge collection technologies, Reserve 9S100s have analyzed more than 4 terabytes of adversary mission data crucial to meeting central national security objectives. These efforts have saved active-duty intelligence units approximately 1200 man-hours of analysis, estimated to be worth around $10 million.