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Look Mom, No Contractor Hands: For the first time ever, airmen who operate and maintain the Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles at Creech AFB, Nev., launched the aircraft Feb. 28 without need of support from prime contractor General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. Creech acquired its MQ-9s in March 2007. Since their arrival, USAF has depended on GA-ASI to maintain the aircraft and their ground control stations. However, last November, the Reaper Aircraft Maintenance Unit, one of four units in Creech’s 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, stood up with 27 personnel, all military, many of whom had years of experience with the MQ-1 Predator UAV and overseas UAV operations. In January, the Reaper AMU took possession of its first aircraft and began training with it. With assistance from GA-ASI, this cadre obtained its initial qualifications. The new unit will soon expand to over 150 personnel and will continue to train personnel and prepare for future overseas combat deployments. In addition to the Reapers at Creech, USAF began flying MQ-9s in combat in Afghanistan last September and started employing munitions from them the following month. (Creech report by 2nd Lt. Melinda M. Mokos)