Fighter wing takes up air mission over Iraq

By Capt. Morshe Araujo
332nd AEW PAO

The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing expanded its air mission over the skies of Iraq when U.S. Air Force F-16 Vipers from the Colorado Air National Guard's 140th Fighter Wing, the New Mexico Air National Guard's 150th Fighter Wing and the Montana Air National Guard's 120th Fighter Wing, landed at Balad May 27.

According to Lt. Col. Curtis Hughes, 332nd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, the base's new flying squadron will work in concert with the Army's Joint Tactical Center in providing support to patrols and convoys.

"Our mission will be to provide coalition ground forces combat airpower support," said Hughes.

About 250 strong, the 332nd EFS aviation package consists of the aircraft and all the people needed, from maintainers tointelligence personnel to pilots, to conduct the unit's mission.

"The fighter squadron is a rainbow of assets from the Colorado, New Mexico and Montana Air National Guard units," explained Hughes, who also said the unit deployed once last year in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The F-16C has tremendous capabilities ranging from its advanced targeting pod to the laser and GPS-guided weapons that it carries, Hughes said.

"Also, all of our pilots are trained and qualified in the use of night vision goggles and everyone is experienced in CAS missions," said Hughes. "That's the one thing we feel the Air National Guard brings to the total force ... experience."

Hughes said the welcome reception he and his unit received since arriving to Balad has been wonderful.

"The air Expeditionary wing and the Expeditionary operations group has done a tremendous job in preparing the base for our arrival," he said. "We couldn't have asked for any better support."

Keeping in line with the 332nd AEW's rich Tuskegee Airmen heritage, the 332nd EFS has adopted the name the "Red Tails." The tail of the aircraft even has a red stripe painted on its surface.

"This is to show our commitment to the Tuskegee Airman tradition," said Hughes.

A strategic hub, Balad Air Base helps feed essential supplies to the troops in the field through airlift support.

The F-16s provide added protection to replenishing the military's war fighting capabilities.

"We're extremely proud to have the F-16 mission here," said Brig. Gen. F.C. Williams, commander of the 332nd AEW. "Their presence will help continue to the global fight on terrorism."

 

F-16 Viper
An F-16 Viper of the 332nd Air Expeditionary wing lands on the airstrip of LSA Anaconda.

Airman guides an F-16 on Airstrip
An Airman guides an F-16 on Airstrip at LSA Anaconda.