Maintenance window scheduled to begin at February 14th 2200 est. until 0400 est. February 15th


Forgot Password?

    Defense Visual Information Distribution Service Logo

    All Systems Go

    Southern Strike 2020 - MQ-9 Crew Chief

    Photo By Maj. Dusty Culpepper | A. Danielle Thomas, a public affairs specialist at the Gulfport Combat Readiness...... read more read more



    Story by Capt. Dusty Culpepper 

    Joint Force Headquarters - Mississippi National Guard

    For Senior Airman Gretchen Freed, the second time to Mississippi was the charm.

    Freed, a crew chief from the 119th Wing, Fargo, N.D., said that she came all the way to Mississippi last year and helped assemble an MQ-9 Reaper, only to have it stay in the hangar for a week.

    In 2019, during the Southern Strike exercise, an MQ-9 was brought to Mississippi from Fargo to participate, but was hindered by a partial government shutdown.

    “When we didn’t get to fly last year, it was a really big letdown for us, because we were really excited to be here,” Freed said.

    “But the fact that we were able to fly this year and drop bombs and help people was just such a good feeling.”

    “We crushed it,” she said.

    As a crew chief on the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), Freed said that she is responsible for the launch and recovery of the aircraft. As she explains it to her family, she is similar to the person at the airport on the ground who directs the plane where to go before takeoff.

    When the aircraft returns, she and her team are responsible for maintenance and inspections.

    “We do an inspection to make sure that there isn’t anything broken, look it over and fix anything that might be broken before the next flight,” Freed said.

    At Southern Strike 2020, the Reaper has put in over 80 hours of flying, dropped almost 30 GBUs (Guided Bomb Unit), and flown close to 20 sorties in just two weeks, 50 hours more than any other MQ-9 has previously flown in a National Guard Bureau (NGB) exercise.

    On the civilian side of life, the 25-year-old works in the human resources at Aldevron, a Bio-Technology firm in Fargo, where she does talent development and recruiting, training, and onboarding of personnel, a far cry from what she does in the National Guard.

    “I sit at a desk all day in my civilian job, and I wanted to do something different and challenge myself in a different way,” Freed said. After choosing to be a crew chief as a career field, Freed found out that her grandfather had been a crew chief many years before.

    The Minnesota native says that she has enjoyed the Mississippi weather and the seafood for the past three weeks.

    As the MQ-9’s get packed into their boxes to be flown back to North Dakota, Freed concluded that this year was particularly meaningful, because the aircraft got to fly, the team met all of their training requirements, and now she can go home feeling more ready and confident in her abilities to perform in her career field.

    Freed says that the training provided in Southern Strike has been the most meaningful experience in her three year military career.

    “I have learned so much in the three weeks at Southern Strike. Last year (to Mississippi) was my first TDY (Temporary Deployment), and it was so fun because it was different than what you do on the typical drill weekends,” Freed said.

    “This is what I signed up to do.”



    Date Taken: 02.11.2020
    Date Posted: 02.11.2020 18:12
    Story ID: 362636
    Location: GULFPORT, MS, US 
    Hometown: FARGO, ND, US
    Hometown: GULFPORT, MS, US

    Web Views: 359
    Downloads: 0