655th ISRG continues to grow, paves the way for DoD

  • Published
  • By Stacy Vaughn
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Since standing up in 2012, the 655th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group has come a long way in just a short amount of time and continues to pave the way in future Air Force intelligence initiatives.

The 655th ISR Group is an independent group under 10th Air Force that ensures the training and readiness of Air Force Reserve Command intelligence squadrons engaged in diverse and complex intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission sets. The intelligence missions include human intelligence, signals intelligence, geospatial and measurement intelligence, targeting, distributed common ground systems and ISR support to Special Operations Forces and Airborne Linguists.

The 655th supports Air Combat Command; Air Force Materiel Command; Air Force Special Operations Command; National Air and Space Intelligence Center; Defense Intelligence Agency; National Security Agency; and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency with classic associate intelligence squadrons imbedded and working daily with their active duty counterparts to further the intelligence capabilities of the US Air Force.

Stood up in October 2012 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio as Detachment 2 with 38 people, the 655th ISR Group has grown from being a detachment and now consists of 11 classic associate unit intelligence squadrons spanning across six states conducting eight different missions with more than 1,000 people.

Col. Douglas Drakeley, 655th ISRG commander, has been at the helm since the group stood up and says it seems like just yesterday the initiative was only on paper.

"During the summer of 2012, we conducted a site activation task force that stood up the units at Wright Patt. At that time, I was assigned to Beale (Air Force Base, California), as the director of intelligence for the 713th Combat Operations Squadron. I was asked to be the project integration officer for standing these units up. On the books we had the ability to eventually build nine new intelligence squadrons and an intelligence group. By September, we got the orders to stand up the operating detachments."

The operating locations for the five new squadrons were two squadrons at Wright-Patt, one at Beale and two squadrons at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

Drakeley arrived at Wright-Patt in November and became the Detachment 2 commander, reporting to 10th Air Force. Fast forward one year later to September 2013. The orders finally come down to create the group and the squadrons.

"We finally got the organizational change request for the 655th ISR Group and five new squadrons stood up. Each squadron had a new name plus we got to take command of the other two intelligence squadrons in the enterprise - the 50th Intelligence Squadron that stood up in 2008, and the 718th Intelligence Squadron that stood up in 2010 respectively. Those squadrons didn't belong to us yet so the order that came down in September 15, 2013 made those part of the 655th, bringing us to seven squadrons."

Drakeley said with the new fiscal year, the group had the ability to stand up four new intelligence squadrons. Those became detachments of the 655th and included a squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, one at Hurlburt Field, Florida, one at Fort Meade, Maryland and one at Wright-Patt. With each new squadron came a new mission area, therefore four new missions were added to the group.

"Looking back from just a span of three years, the group stood up with five squadrons then it went to seven squadrons then it went to 11 squadrons. That's where we're at today, obviously a lot of growth over the past couple years."

Drakeley said the 655th isn't done growing yet.

"On the books for FY17 are three new squadrons. Two are cyber intelligence squadrons--one at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and one at Fort Meade--and another targeting squadron that will stand up at Offutt. Cyber is a growing requirement for the nation to be able to both defend and be able to potentially determine the correct response to a threat in the cyber world. Our new squadrons will focus on intelligence to support the cyber world. Those squadrons will be helping to do that and that's part of the whole investment that the nation is making in the cyber mission force.

With the group expanding, the next focus will be on meeting the requirements and the timelines to become a wing. In 2015, the 655th ISR Group experienced a net growth of 113 percent, 14 new ISR billets and experienced 11 months of positive growth, with only one month of zero net sum growth. The 655th rose from 99 percent manning across the group to 111 percent, with one squadron reaching 165 percent manning.

"We went from 38 people when I showed up here, starting off to having more than 1,000 people and with the three new squadrons that will put us at more than 1,300 people."

As an independent group, the 655th is a wing equivalent organization.

"We haven't grown to a wing yet. It's on the horizon to eventually become a wing. Currently, it hasn't been fully mapped out. Different elements of the command support different timelines. Right now, we're shooting for the next year or so to be able to make that work but that will depend on the programmatics, what the command decides programmatically they can do. There are not that many organizations that will have 14 squadrons in one group so it's imperative that we grow in size and capability very quickly."

Drakeley is proud of the men and women in his group and the results of their role in the Air Force Reserve that they bring to the table every day.

"The great thing about these jobs from a reserve standpoint is that most of these jobs are here in the United States at operations centers so our reservists can do their civilian job during the week then come to work on the weekend and work missions from here. In nine out of our 11 squadrons, that is possible for us to do those types of activities from the U.S. on operations floors that are in the fight here. It's a great role for reservists."

Drakeley said his Airmen make a difference with what they do for national defense. Information that his reservists have worked on have gone not only to combatant commanders, but to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the Secretary of the Air Force and to the President himself.

"Things that our reservists have touched and worked on as intelligence products have spanned that chain of command. It's impressive when you start looking at the impact that these 1,000 plus Airmen have in being able to support the National Defense."