News: Eagles soar for last time at Hickam
Story by Master Sgt. Cohen Young
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR – HICKAM, Hawaii – F-15 Eagles from the 199th Fighter Squadron, Hawaii Air National Guard completed their last training mission from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Aug 25.
The HIANG is upgrading to the F-22 Raptor, a fifth generation fighter and received their first two Raptors in July.
The Guard is the lead in a “Total Force” concept that already exists at Hickam with the C-17 Globemaster III. The 19th FS, 15th Air Wing will fly and help maintain the 20 F-22 Raptors that bring another capability to the HIANG as well as the U.S. Air Force.
Many of the current F-15 pilots of the HIANG are eager to start training and flying the Raptor, but will still sorely miss the Eagle aircraft, which the unit has flown since 1987.
“It’s like saying goodbye to a good friend,” said 199th pilot Lt. Col James Sage. “It was exciting flying it for the last time and especially against a F-22, but at the same time the F-15 has always brought me home safely and been an outstanding aircraft,” added Sage.
The three remaining F-15’s will be take off on Sept. 1 and with that two of the fighters will move onto the 56th Aggressors Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nev., while the other will move onto the 120th Fighter Wing of the Montana Air National Guard. The Montana unit has assumed the HIANG’s air defense mission for the next year as the HIANG transitions to the F-22 according to 199th pilot Lt. Col. Mark Ladtkow.
“It’s somewhat a bittersweet feeling flying the last training mission of the F-15 with our unit,” said Ladtkow. “I’m blessed to have the upcoming opportunity to fly the F-22, but the F-15 which I’ve flown for 17 years is a friend of mine and will be missed,” added Ladtkow.
Ladtkow is a 20-year veteran of the military, with the last six being part of the Guard world. He will be the one delivering his jet to the Montana Guard in the near future, which will probably be just as touching day as this one was for him and the rest of the men and women of the 199th FS.
“The 199th proves that National Guard forces are capable of maintaining a strategic presence with its active duty association and providing a great value to our nation and the state of Hawaii,” said Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Craig R. McKinley.
The F-22, a single-seat, twin engine aircraft that utilizes stealth technology was originally designed primarily as an air superiority fighter.
“These F-22 Raptors are the state of the art air superiority fighter and couldn’t be located at a better place,” added McKinley.