Shock and Awe at 20 Years

Welcome to the fifty-seventh episode of the Lessons from the Cockpit podcast! This episode is an anniversary episode.

This past week marked twenty years since the opening of Operation Iraqi Freedom’s Shock and Awe air campaign, a term those of us involved never used. To those planning and executing air operations, it was Air Tasking Order Oscar or ATO O. The Combined Air Operations Center Air Refueling Control Team which I led went through six weeks of hell preparing for the opening  A-Day and H-Hour, Friday night 21 March 2003 at 9 pm local Baghdad time. In this episode, you will hear the background stories of how the air refueling team got to that Friday night air schwacking of Iraq, from Friday 14 March to what you saw a week later on all the news media on 21 March. It looked like everything was going smoothly but no, it wasn’t. The tanker force was not in place until Sunday 23 March.

This episode of the Lessons from the Cockpit podcast is sponsored by the book Tanker Pilot: Lessons from the Cockpit found in all four formats; hardback, softback, Kindle, and Audible. Thirty-two pictures taken during events described in the book are contained in the pages, some taken by the author and some taken by the receivers.

Prints of aircraft participating in the opening night of Iraqi Freedom can be found at Wall Pilot, custom aviation art for the walls of your home, office, or hanger. These are four, six, or eight-foot-long aircraft profiles printed on vinyl which can be peeled off or framed and placed on any flat surface.

The F-15E Strike Eagle was tasked to support Close Air Support to the Third Infantry Division in their march to Baghdad. This F-15E carries the weapons load normally used on such CAS missions.

The F-16CJ Wild Weasel took part in the Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) and the Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses on the opening night when the Baghdad Super Missile Engagement Zone had to be destroyed.

The F-16CJs were supported in their mission by the RC-135 Rivet Joint, an electronic intelligence collection platform used to identify, classify, and locate Saddam’s SAM systems.

The E-3B Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System or AWACS was the Air Battlefield Manger platform for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Air Mobility Command KC-10 Extender was critical to the air refueling system for Operation Iraqi Freedom because they could refuel both Boom or Drogue-equipped aircraft and were air refuelable, allowing the KC-10 to be filled up during flight.

Go by my Lt Col Mark Hasara TikTok page to see short 15 to 30-second aviation and military videos that educate and entertain. Some are pretty incredible!

Thanks to all of my listeners for downloading this and previous episodes of the podcast. I really do appreciate it! This and previous episodes of the Lessons from the Cockpit podcast can be found on my website at

Check out this episode!

Mark Hasara

Have a great Day!

Sluggo Sends!

P.S. — If you’re reading my book Tanker Pilot: Lessons from the Cockpit, I’d really love to hear your thoughts in a review on Amazon here, I read them all.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments