Airman in Leaks Case Worked on a Global Network Essential to Drone Missions

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In 2005, the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure commission made recommendations that affected most of the Air National Guard’s aviation units, with 14 of them losing their flying mission, the Government Accountability Office reported. The move left thousands of air guardsmen without jobs, the officers said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of their continuing work for companies that do business with the federal government.

One of those units was the 102nd Fighter Wing at a base called Otis on Cape Cod.

Men and women from that Air National Guard wing and other former flying units began training to work on the Distributed Common Ground System, learning to run its computers and analyze intelligence from spy planes and the ever-increasing numbers of drones flying in combat missions overseas, the retired officers said.

In a speech to the Air War College in 2008, Robert M. Gates, then the secretary of defense, said the number of unmanned aircraft in service with the U.S. military had increased to more than 5,000.

Stations for the network were soon established at Air National Guard bases in Indiana and at Otis, where Jack Teixeira’s stepfather made the transition from the 102nd Fighter Wing to a post at the newly christened 102nd Intelligence Wing.

Today, there are 27 D.C.G.S. stations in the United States and two foreign countries, according to Air Force documents. But the original five are the busiest, operating nonstop year-round, the retired officers said. Each of those sites is supported by a corresponding Air National Guard unit.

The unit in Germany is currently in great demand because it serves the U.S. European Command, and, by extension, America’s support of Ukraine in its war with Russia. The Ramstein station is backed up by the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Joint Base Cape Cod, the officers said, which is supported by the 102nd Intelligence Support Squadron, where Airman Teixeira is stationed.

By 2019, when Airman Teixeira joined the Air National Guard, the U.S. military was operating more than 11,000 drones, according to the Pentagon.


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