81st RCS: the one and only


Airmen have a responsibility to hone their skills while supporting the mission, and the Airmen of one squadron have made a name for themselves because of how they help other Airmen.

The 81st Range Control Squadron, also known as “Wet Stone,” works tirelessly to sharpen the knife used in command and control for air-to-air and air-to-ground live fire missions.

“Wet Stone is a team of motivated, highly skilled Airmen working together in a safe, professional environment providing world-class command and control in support of the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group mission,” said Maj. Derrick Iwanenko, 81st RCS director of operations.

Simply put, the 81st RCS mission is to support the 53rd WEG’s mission to evaluate manned and unmanned aircraft employing precision air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, provide threat-representative, full-scale and subscale aerial targets for weapons testing and evaluation, Iwanenko said.

Adding to the squadron’s uniqueness, the 81st RCS is the Air Force’s only ground control intercept control operation, supporting live air-to-air missile operational test and evaluation.

“We are the only agency allowed to control the live fire evaluations that happen right here in our backyard right over the Gulf,” Iwanenko said. “Getting into the wet stone mission, we provide command and control for Weapon System Evaluation Programs. There are two portions of a WSEP; there is combat hammer and combat archer, which is combat-air and combat-ground.

When weapon system evaluations are not underway, the 81st controls some of the Tyndall assets from the 43rd and the 95th Fighter Squadrons, providing the 81st RCS additional opportunities to train by running missions every day.

“For us to control not only for the WSEP, but also for the units at Tyndall keeps us busy,” Iwanenko said. “Every day we are doing our job to provide unrivaled command and control. It is really exciting to see. The issue with providing command and control for WSEP and for continuation training missions is that they are vastly different. This makes the skillset for one not necessarily transferable to the other.”

Wet Stone has a history of providing unrivaled command and control dating back to 1957.

“In 1957 the Air Force needed to figure out how to sharpen skillsets of pilots for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions,” Iwanenko said. “To do that, the 4756th Drone Squadron was developed. The purpose of that was to increase proficiency on the range. But there was also a need for ground control intercept, a term interchangeable with command and control.”

Since its first designation as the 4756th, the 81st RCS has continued to provide unrivaled command and control for all assets under its watch.

“The squadron impresses me, having so many first-term Airmen being able to assimilate into this squadron’s mission,” Iwanenko said. “There is so much information and it is so vastly different. The way they take that information and process it to do the mission is extraordinary.”