Soldier patrols the skies over Afghanistan
2nd Lt. Andrew Champion, 2-2 Inf. Regt., 3rd BCT, 1st Inf. Div., communicates over the radio during a recent joint operation with British and Canadian forces.

JALALABAD AIR FIELD, Afghanistan –There are thousands of Soldiers serving in Afghanistan in the war on terror. They perform many different jobs and each one is important to the mission.

The infantry Soldiers patrolling on the ground and the pilots dominating the sky are all part of the same team. One of these team members is 19-year-old Pvt. Ryan Masterson, who is an aviation operations specialist for the Air Defense and Airspace Management Cell. Masterson, who has been in the Army a little more than two years, detailed some of the tasks he performs daily for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division’s Air Defense and Air Management Cell.

“We track the airspace for our brigade’s area of operations and get real time video feeds of what’s going on with our airspace. It gives us a better idea of where each aircraft is and what they are doing so we can track everything a lot better,” Masterson said.

Masterson further explained how he helps the infantry ground Soldiers get the air support they need if they are receiving enemy contact.

“We make sure that the infantry Soldiers have whatever they need as far as air support. We make sure they have Apaches, Kiowa warriors and we also make sure that they’re getting Chinooks for their supplies, food, water and everything like that,” Masterson said.

Masterson coordinates air support with the troops on the ground via radio and phone systems by communicating with a liaison officer to find out what exactly the Soldiers on the ground need, whether it’s air support, supplies or reconnaissance flights from unmanned aerial vehicles. Whatever the case, Masterson must be able to quickly disseminate information, look at the airspace and what is available to get the ground Soldiers whatever they need by air.

Masterson rarely has a free moment while working in the shelter or inside the tactical operations center, but he said he finds the job rewarding. When he can, Masterson likes to watch movies, go to the gym and talk to his Family on the Internet.

When free time is over, Masterson is all business and feels good about what he does.

“It’s good to know that you played a role in winning a battle or helping Soldiers by getting them the air support or supplies they needed,” Masterson said.

“I think it’s a good feeling to know that I may have helped some Soldiers and possibly save some lives by getting them what they needed as fast as I could,” he added.

Masterson plays an important roll in the majority of operations for the brigade that require air assets which, considering Afghanistan’s terrain, is almost every operation.

“(Masterson) is very important to the ADAM. Cell and continues to improve on a daily basis. He’s tactically and technically proficient at his job,” said Masterson’s supervisor, Staff Sgt. Simeon Burns.

Masterson wants to pursue a career in law enforcement when his service is finished but for now he’s part of a team that controls the skies over Afghanistan.