News: South Carolina Air National Guard wraps up successful Afghanistan deployment
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – As the four-month deployment to Afghanistan ends, the airmen of the South Carolina Air National Guard are reflecting on the mission accomplished and a job well done.
As their replacements from the Minnesota Air National Guard’s 148th Fighter Wing and 35th Fighter Wing from Misawa Air Base, Japan made their way to Kandahar Airfield to take over the Air Tasking Order, the Swamp Foxes of the 169th Fighter Wing based out of McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., wrap up a successful deployment, adding to their legacy as the Air Force’s premier fighter wing. The unit amassed an astounding number of missions flown. The unit has flown more than 2,200 sorties, equaling more than 9,400 combat hours. The most telling statistic is that the unit never missed an ATO and finished with a 100 percent completion rate.
“Our biggest success was right where it had to be – providing ground commanders the close air support 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week for 120 days straight,” said Lt. Col. Boris Armstrong, 157th Expeditionary Fighter Wing Squadron commander. “Given CAS is not our primary mission it took a very well-planned and executed spin up program to prepare for this AEF while balancing our obligation to remain competent at our primary mission sets.”
The Swamp Fox F-16 pilots spent hours in the air providing close air support to troops on the ground. That overwatch was crucial. Since taking over the Air Tasking Order in mid-April the unit has completed more than 1,400 joint tactical air requests, 400 troops in contact, 469 Priority Taskings, and provided more than 170 shows of forces. The Swamp Foxes have dropped more than 200 bombs and expended more than 7,000 rounds of 20mm.
In April, the 169th Fighter Wing deployed more than a dozen F-16s and 400 personnel including pilots, maintenance specialists, and support staff to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The 169th, while deployed for a four-month AEF rotation, still supported its flying operations at home and executing the Aerospace Control Alert mission at McEntire.
The flying mission would have never been as successful of meeting 100 percent of the Air Tasking Order had it not been for the behind the scenes work of the crew chiefs and maintenance crews that worked in the brutal Afghan summer heat to keep the jets flying.
“It is staggering when you look at the workload of inspections and a phase requirement for F-16’s flying so many hours, not to mention the rate at which parts wear out or break. My hat is off to them,” Armstrong said.
The airmen completed 23 phase inspections–meaning every time a jet hit 400 hours in the air the maintenance staff did a complete breakdown of scheduled and preventative maintenance. In May, the Swamp Fox airmen set a record for Phases completed at Kandahar Airfield with eight jets.
“The sacrifices they have made and the demands they have met are immeasurable,” Maj. Sharilyn Askins, officer in charge of F-16 maintenance while deployed to Kandahar Airfield, said of the airmen. “But to walk the flight line in 118 degree heat with jets running, dust blowing in your face, and the constant anticipation of incoming rockets, I am constantly reminded why I am a part of this unit. The dedication and camaraderie is truly remarkable.”
Askins deployed in June and rotated out with Capt. Grady Patterson, who served as the officer in charge for the first leg of the deployment. She added her most memorable moment was watching South Carolina F-16s take off from Kandahar Airfield “to answer the calls from our men and women in the field.”
The 169th was able to pull off a 120-day rotation due to its unique active association with the Active Duty Air Force. By pairing active duty airmen at an Air National Guard unit, it allows for the unit to deploy for a stand-alone AEF.
This is the Wing’s largest deployment since Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and the fourth major deployment of its F-16s since 2002 when the Swamp Foxes deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom where they flew more than 200 combat missions in the early days of the Afghan Campaign. The wing also deployed in 2003 and 2010 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Date Posted:08.24.2012 12:52
Location:KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, AF
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