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Guardsman to attend elite Weapons Instructor Course

U.S. Air Force Capt. Brandon Rieker, an air battle manager with the 116th Air Control Wing, Georgia Air National Guard, sits at an operator work station aboard an E-8 Joint STARS aircraft, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., Oct. 18, 2014. Rieker was selected to attend the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, Weapons Instructor Course at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nev. Air battle managers are primarily responsible for command and control of battle management and with ensuring the day to day air mission is executed with success. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Kari Giles/released)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Brandon Rieker, an air battle manager with the 116th Air Control Wing, Georgia Air National Guard, sits at an operator work station aboard an E-8 Joint STARS aircraft, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., Oct. 18, 2014. Rieker was selected to attend the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, Weapons Instructor Course at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nev. Air battle managers are primarily responsible for command and control of battle management and with ensuring the day to day air mission is executed with success. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Kari Giles/released)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Georgia Air National Guardsman Captain Brandon Rieker is moving to the head of the class.

The 31-year-old air battle manager with the 116th Air Control Wing is one of six in the career field across the Air Force to be selected for the elite U.S. Air Force Weapons School Weapons Instructor Course that starts in February at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Weapons Instructor Course is not a course that is entered into lightly. 

The goal of the course is to train students to be tactical experts in their combat specialty while also learning the art of battle-space dominance; to harness the ability to completely overmatch in combat power in any domain whether it's air, land, sea, space or cyberspace.

During the course, students receive an average of 400 hours of graduate-level academics and participate in demanding combat training missions.
Only the sharpest Airmen in their career field are chosen to attend the elite school, and expectations for those nominated are high even before selection.

Captain Rieker was identified amongst his peers as a candidate for the Weapons School because of his displayed Airmanship in Operations Odyssey Dawn and Unified Protector. 

"He displayed an ability to manage a complex air campaign and a willingness to learn," said Maj. Jason Scott, deputy 116th plans and programs. "His ability coupled with his personal example and credibility amongst his peers secured his nomination."

Following in his father's footsteps, Rieker enlisted into the Georgia Air National Guard in 2005 as a network administrator with the 116th Communications Squadron. 

After graduating from Macon State College in Macon, Georgia, Rieker said he had his sights on earning a commission.  With determination and mentoring from leadership in 2009 he was commissioned and re-trained to be an air battle manger.

After his nine months in technical school at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, he returned to the 330th Combat Training Squadron at Robins Air Force Base to complete his training. 

Rieker began working in the 128th Airborne Command and Control Squadron Weapons and Tactics Shop.

"While in the weapons and tactics shop I was able to tactic techniques and build employment techniques for how to effectively use JSTARS against country X", Rieker stated.

Rieker, instructs air battle managers in both the 116th and 461st Air Control Wings.  He teaches the techniques of speaking to aircraft as well as the techniques to use the systems on the JSTARS. 

He has been deployed multiple times to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and Unified Protector.  "Those experiences of controlling multiple aircraft in a very dense airspace put me in the right spot to bring realism to the instruction back here at Robins," Rieker said.

Rieker mentioned that by attending the Weapons Instructor Course he will not only become a subject matter expert for the JSTARS and the air battle manager community but will also be learning how to integrate the JSTARS into other weapon systems in the
U.S. Air Force and the joint environment.

Rieker said of being in the Air National Guard, "I'm in for the long haul." "The advantage that a Guard air battle manager has over active duty is that I'm able to maintain continuity on the same platform."

The JSTARS is a one-of-a-kind capability that can conduct battle management and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance simultaneously. The platform provides the ability to track ground vehicles, maritime and aircraft, to collect imagery, and to relay tactical data to ground and air theater commanders.