Images: Operation Iraqi Freedom [Image 5 of 20]
Maj. Mark "Booc" Blackman, a fighter pilot with the 157th Fighter Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., prepares to launch an F-16 Fighting Falcon for a mission from Joint Base Balad, Iraq on June 22. The 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire sent F-16's, pilots, maintenance specialists and support personnel overseas for its first major combat operation since 2003, when the unit deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom and flew more than 400 combat missions. The 169 FW is now an "Active Associate" wing. This unique agreement with the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw AFB embeds 150 active duty Airmen with the 169 FW at McEntire to forge an even stronger, more mobile force. Elements of the South Carolina Air National Guard's 169 FW began this historic deployment in early May 2010 when airmen landed at JBB in support of OIF.