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148th Fighter Wing stands alert

A 148th Fighter Wing F-16 from Duluth, Minn., taxis upon arrival at Shaw Air Force Base, Friday, June 22nd.  The 148th Fighter Wing is temporarily filling an Air Sovereignty Alert mission at there.

A 148th Fighter Wing F-16 from Duluth, Minn., taxis upon arrival at Shaw Air Force Base, Friday, June 22nd. The 148th Fighter Wing is temporarily filling an Air Sovereignty Alert mission at there.

Members from the 148th Fighter Wing, Duluth, Minn., build a baggage pallet for a short-notice Air Sovereignty Alert deployment to Shaw Air Force Base, N.C.  (USAF Photo/Technical Sgt. Jason Rolfe)

Members from the 148th Fighter Wing, Duluth, Minn., build a baggage pallet for a short-notice Air Sovereignty Alert deployment to Shaw Air Force Base, N.C. (USAF Photo/Technical Sgt. Jason Rolfe)

SHAW AFB, S.C. -- Within hours of receiving initial notification, F-16 Fighting Falcons and several Air National Guard members from the 148th Fighter Wing "Bulldogs," Duluth, Minn., arrived at Shaw Air Force Base, N.C., to maintain Air Sovereignty Alert (ASA) and provide around-the-clock support for Operation NOBLE EAGLE, a homeland security mission. 

This quick reaction was possible through teamwork between the entire 148th FW, the 133rd Airlift Wing, Minnesota Air National Guard, Minneapolis, Minn., and the 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw AFB. 

"From the moment the original call came in, the plan was put into action with everyone from maintenance to operations to mission support to the medical group. It was a total wing effort to make it happen," said Colonel Mark Johnson, 148th FW commander.
Additionally, Guard members from the 133rd AW quickly reacted with a C-130 Hercules by providing airlift to their comrades. 

Less than three hours transpired from the time the C-130 arrived at the 148th FW base, was loaded with cargo and personnel, and was on its way to Shaw AFB, according to Lt. Colonel Reed Bowman, 148th FW vice commander. 

"We have a lot of hard-working people who have trained for this. Smart people used established procedures and it went like clockwork, said Lt. Colonel Bowman. 

"When we have a common objective to overcome, we become a well-oiled machine. It's unbelievable to watch. People really care about what they do. Because of our people with vast experience and corporate, alert knowledge, we can support the homeland defense mission anywhere, anytime." 

This time, the mission took them to Shaw AFB, an F-16 base and the 20th FW. The facilities and personnel support there is very good, according to Lt. Colonel Brad Jackson, 148th FW alert operations officer. 

"The 20th Fighter Wing has given us outstanding support. With such short notice, it was an easier deployment because when we arrived there Friday night, all we had to do was park our airplanes, get an inbrief and we were good to go," he said. 

Less than a day and a half after parking those planes and getting their inbrief, the 148th FW received its first alert. 

"When we replaced the last guys we were told we probably wouldn't get many real-world alerts. But, Sunday morning we got an active air scramble. It was pretty cool and hadn't happened since 2003. We got to prove we could do the (ASA) mission," said Lt. Colonel Jackson. 

The ASA mission is responsible to First Air Force and the Continental U.S. NORAD Region for air sovereignty alert missions and irregular air patrol over the continental U.S. and its surrounding waters. 

"We're a very small part, but a very important part (of the mission). For a nation to have an identity and to be independent, it has to be able to protect its borders. There is no substitution for airframes that can physically take a look or intervene if necessary," said Lt. Colonel Jackson. 

Those airframes have to be well maintained in order to complete the mission. The F-16s alerted to Shaw AFB had to be completely configured for real-world alert status when the call came in, according to Lt. Colonel Penny Dieryck, 148th Maintenance Squadron commander. 

"In our hearts we know that the sovereignty of our nation is the most important mission we have. We train in order to be prepared to react. The jets we have are the oldest in the inventory. We keep stepping up to the plate and hitting home runs with the hope that in the future, we will be able to continue our mission with a new airframe," said Lt. Colonel Dieryck. (Funding for the F-16 is scheduled to end in 2011.) 

Maintaining those jets and keeping them flying helps motivate wing members when the alternate is closing and not being able to participate or serve their country, Colonel Johnson said. 

"We're fighting for our existence and the opportunity to be able to do the mission. I don't think any mission is more important than protecting our own homeland," he said.
That mission can be activated in the blink of an eye, with little or no notice. 

"It's hours and hours of boredom, followed by a few seconds of shear terror when you're blasted out of bed and airborne in less than 10 minutes," said Lt. Colonel Jackson. 

From the planning phase of mobilizing a wing to getting the alert pilot airborne during a real world event, protecting the homeland is their primary mission. 

148th FW members accomplish that mission with pride, "Bulldog" pride.