By Tech. Sgt. Chuck Broadway, 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. — Lt. Col. Eric Schmidt, 334th Fighter Squadron director of operations is sprayed down by friends and family members following his final F-15E Strike Eagle flight June 17, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Schmidt eclipsed 3,000 hours in the Strike Eagle and was greeted by many to celebrate the occasion. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chuck Broadway)
by Airman 1st Class Erin R. Babis
48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
4/1/2016 – ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England — When the 48th Fighter Wing set out to fly more than 1,000 sorties during what was dubbed ‘Big March’, a total of 1,220 sorties were scheduled, in anticipation of flight cancellations due to bad weather.
But, the 48th FW exceeded expectations and flew a staggering 1,238 sorties, toppling the previous record of 938 sorties flown in August 2015.
Maintainers at the 48th FW pushed tool carts up to a mile and a half to the protective aircraft shelters and hangars where the jets and helicopters awaited them. Aircrew suited up and settled into their aircraft, ready for another day of flying. Utilizing only 20 days during the month of March, Liberty Airmen pushed their limits and surpassed records, launching more than 1,200 sorties.
“We crushed the record, but that wasn’t the goal,” stated Col. Scottie Zamzow, 48th Operations Group commander. “The goal was to sharpen the sword; stress the machine, so that when we were done, we were more combat ready than when we started.”
The surge operations resulted in more than crushed records. March’s success directly impacted the wing’s capabilities, but required the determination of every Airman involved.
“The epitome of ‘Forward, Ready, Now’ is what we’ve just accomplished,” explained Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Stewart, 48th Maintenance Group superintendent.
“We’re talking about refueling 1,200 sorties; we’re talking about tracking 1,200 sorties,” Stewart continued, in regards to the increased workloads for the 48th Logistics Readiness Squadron and 48th Operations Support Squadron, respectively. “Airmen on the flightline, that may have turned a wrench five times on one specific job in six months, got to do it five times in one month because we were flying that many sorties.”
Stewart’s pride in the MXG’s ability to step up and achieve more than had been expected, shone through as he spoke of the great boost to morale that resulted from the sense of accomplishment the Airmen could now own, and how it improved communication and leadership skills. However, he also noted that those benefits were secondary. The primary focus was the combat readiness of the aircrew.
Every aircrew member is required to meet certain standards, but one young lieutenant’s accomplishment during the surge operations stuck out to Lt. Col. Connor Blackwood, 48th OG deputy commander. The lieutenant wanted to hone a tactical skill that would allow him to gain an advantage against enemy aircraft, and Blackwood had six sorties in two days to teach him.
“The first day he didn’t get it, but by the second day, about the second flight, it finally clicked and he was able to stay behind me and get in position to take the shot,” Blackwood recounted. “Something that would have taken six months to accomplish under normal training conditions took only two days. You bet, for that lieutenant, that meant everything! Now he is going to be a better Wingman.”
Blackwood remarked that the pilot’s goal didn’t have anything to do with a lofty desire to break a sortie record, but had been to realize his own capabilities and improve his ability to perform as a pilot.
Broken records were a side note compared to the accomplishments across the groups involved in sortie operations according the MXG and OG leadership.
“We are all Liberty Airmen,” Zamzow said. “Whether you’re an aviator, a controller in the tower, a maintainer or a refueler, we love to fly aircraft, we love to fix aircraft, we love to control aircraft, and we love to fuel aircraft. You let us do our primary job, and we’re going to love it, and we’re going to have a good time.”
The results of Big March mean one thing: the Liberty Wing is postured to do anything, anywhere in the world. ‘Forward, Ready, Now’. It was just another day at RAF Lakenheath.
Master Sgt. Julie Avey, Public Affairs Specialist
Lt. Col. Brenda Hendricksen, Public Affairs Officer
(3/31/2016 – Barnes Air National Guard Base, Westfield, Mass.) – The 104th Fighter Wing here will be deploying over 200 unit members, 12 F-15 Eagle aircraft and associated equipment in support of multiple NATO objectives in Europe.
While in the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Area of Responsibility, the 104th FW will support the NATO Air Surveillance mission in Iceland as part of a Theater Security Package in support of NATO alliance commitments. The unit will also deploy to Leeuwarden Air Base, Netherlands, and other European NATO and partner nations.
The unit will conduct training alongside our NATO allies and partners to strengthen interoperability and to demonstrate U.S. commitment to a Europe that is whole, free, at peace, secure, and prosperous.
“As Citizen Airmen we continue to support the National Security both home and abroad with partner nations and allies,” said Col. James Keefe, Commander of the 104th FW. “Our Guardsmen are on duty accomplishing missions they train for every day at Barnes and are an enduring choice for security cooperation and building partnerships. Our defense relationships with allies like Iceland are critical to ensuring security for the United States and NATO.”
The Air National Guard has enduring long-term relationships with countries with similar values and interests, paramount for meeting defense goals in today’s global environment. The 104th FW Air Guardsmen provide critical support throughout the USAFE AOR by deploying and interacting with a variety of nations.
We represent America’s forward presence, standing alongside our proven, indispensable European allies and partners. Together, we are ensuring our security, protecting our global interests, and bolstering our economic bonds. We are able to maintain a global presence thanks to the combined efforts of our active duty, National Guard, and Reserve Forces.
The 104th FW is an operational flying unit assigned to the Air Combat Command, and proudly claims the honor of being one of the oldest flying units within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Recently the 104th received “Air Control Alert Unit of the Year” by the Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region – 1st Air Force (CONR-1AF/AFNORTH). A component of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the Continental U.S. NORAD Region (CONR) provides airspace surveillance and control and directs aerospace control activities for the continental United States (CONUS).
Tasked to provide operationally ready combat units, combat support units and qualified personnel for active duty, the 104th FW supports Air Force wartime contingency requirements and performs a variety of peacetime missions required by the Air Force and compatible mobilization readiness. One mission of the 104th is Aerospace Control Alert (ACA), providing armed fighters ready to scramble in a moment’s notice to protect the Northeast from any airborne threat. The unit is responsible for protecting a quarter of the nation’s population and one third of the Gross Domestic Product
by Airman 1st Class Erin R. Babis
48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
3/9/2016 – ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England — The 48th Fighter Wing’s jets are flying more sorties during the month of March.
“We are exercising the ability to fly a massive amount of sorties in a short amount of time, and preparing our pilots for operations that are outside the norm, so that they are ready in a stressful environment, to go out and execute the mission they’ve been trained to do,” explained Lt. Col. Jason Zumwalt, 493rd Fighter Squadron director of operations.
On a typical day, one fighter squadron flies 14 sorties each, lasting about an hour and a half. But, this month, squadrons are scheduled to fly up to 54 sorties in one day. During this time, instead of shutting down the jets after the morning and evening sorties, each jets will be refueled twice, allowing pilots three opportunities to better hone their skills.
“It’s a great experience for the pilot to stay in the jet, get refueled and do it again,” Zumwalt said. “The sorties are exhausting, and this training pushes pilots further, testing their limits, so they are ready at a moment’s notice and can successfully accomplish the mission. Your typical pilot may get between nine and 12 sorties a week, and, on average, that’s how many pilots get in a month.”
Zumwalt explained that this surge in training allows pilots to practice executing difficult maneuvers with precision.
“A good example is a break turn,” Zumwalt explained. “It’s a defensive or offensive hard turn, high-g maneuver to turn the aircraft very rapidly. Now, I can go out and do three of those in a single sortie or I can go out and do 12 of them in a single day. What you’ll find is that, during that day, it’s a lot of muscle memory, and by hitting it all at once we are able to zero in on the perfect spot for execution.”
The Liberty Wing and surrounding community communities can expect to hear more jets in the sky during the coming weeks. For every aircraft the Liberty Wing puts in the sky, there is a lot of work that goes on in the background and a lot of beneficial training that prepares our Airmen for future operations. Training consistently and occasionally pushing the limits keeps everyone on the ground and in the air Forward, Ready, Now
SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. –
By Airman Shawna L. Keyes, 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Fourteen of the 4th Fighter Wing’s F-15E Strike Eagles took off for Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, in support of Red Flag 16-2, Feb. 25.
The two-week long exercise began Feb. 29 and concludes March 11. The exercise aims to continue training crews in air, space and cyberspace in combat scenarios to prepare for overseas contingences.
“Red flag is a large force joint collision exercise, so we got a lot of other players from other nations and other services,” said Maj. Gabe Lewis, 336th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations. “The idea of Red Flag is to simulate those first couple days of combat so that when you go out into no kidding combat you’re not deer-in-the-headlights and you’re not struggling to keep up. It is the best exercise to prepare for combat.”
Red Flag was initiated in 1975 and is held annually on the Nevada Test and Training Range, providing realistic combat training for the United States and its allies. The range has more than 15,000 square miles of airspace and 2.9 million acres of land for the aircraft and crews to simulate a multitude of scenarios.
To help prepare for Red Flag and provide additional realistic training for today’s warfighters, members of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina developed a monthly exercise known as Razor Talon, which began in March 2011. It’s about half the size of Red Flag and is a low-cost, large-force training opportunity for joint East Coast tactical and support aviation units.
“Razor Talon provides a safe environment to train joint and combined warriors, using training battlespace available in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, to ensure they are prepared for operational challenges they are likely to face during a contingency,” said Lt. Col. Jason Watson, 4th Operations Support Squadron assistant director of operations and chief of Razor Talon.
Razor Talon operates with approximately 30 aircraft over the span of one day, whereas Red Flag combines more than 70 aircraft, including those from the Italian and Turkish Air Forces, with exercises spanning over two weeks.
“When I went to Red Flag six years ago we didn’t have Razor Talon,” Lewis said. “I would say the young guys we send out to Red Flag now are much better prepared having gone to Razor Talon before heading out.”
by Airman 1st Class Erin R. Babis
48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
2/26/2016 – ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England — The 493rd Fighter Squadron commander, Lt. Col. John Stratton, earned his 2,000 flying hours patch Feb. 26.
A crowd of more than 30 of Stratton’s friends, family members and fellow Airmen from the 48th Fighter Wing gathered as he pulled up to the protective aircraft shelter in his F-15C Eagle.
“My first flight in the F-15C Eagle was on Aug. 4, 1999,” Stratton remarked, asking that no one tell him how old they were back then. “Therefore, it’s taken almost 17 years to reach this milestone.”
As his wife, Tara, headed out to the PAS to greet her husband, she echoed his sentiment of the amount of time it has taken to accomplish 2,000 flying hours.
“I’m excited for him,” Tara said. “He’s been working toward this for a long time now.”
Col. Robert Novotny, 48th Fighter Wing commander, who has known Stratton for a while, presented him with the 2,000-hour flying patch. Stratton saw Novotny earn his 2,000-hour flying patch when they were stationed together in the 67th Fighter Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan.
“We first met when he was assistant director of operations,” Novotny explained. “We were in the same squadron together, and I was the commander. Now, to see him leading the 493rd, it’s been really cool to see his success over his career. 2,000 hours! That’s a lot of flying in the F-15C. The sorties are short, and so that’s a lot of experience. It doesn’t happen as much as it used to. It’s really cool to see people get their 2,000-hour patches.”
“I am honored to have my wing commander, who has earned 2,000 hours in the Eagle, to put my 2,000-hour patch on as a squadron commander,” Stratton said.
by Capt. Angela Walz
142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
2/19/2016 – PORTLAND AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ore. — Colonel Adam “Khan” Sitler joined an elite group of fighter pilots to reach 3,000 flight hours in an F-15 Eagle, Feb. 18 at Portland Air National Guard Base, Oregon. Sitler, an F-15 instructor pilot and the 142nd Operations Group Commander, crossed that threshold during a routine training mission here. He is the 99th pilot on record with Boeing as having achieved 3,000 flying hours in an F-15.
“Each and every sortie takes a team effort. No one reaches an aviation milestone on their own,” Sitler said. “I’m the beneficiary of countless hours of toil on the part of the most professional aircraft maintainers in the world. They deliver not just safe, but fully mission capable aircraft that I’m privileged to fly,” he said.
As the 142 OG Commander, Col. Sitler leads more than 375 personnel in the execution of the F-15 mission defending the Pacific Northwest, worldwide deployments supporting national objectives, and domestic operations activities as directed by the Governor. He has flown more than 50 combat missions and 250 combat hours in Operation Allied Force and Operation Southern Watch.
“He’s a great fighter pilot, an extraordinary leader and mentor to our junior pilots, and an overall asset to the Air Force and the Oregon Air National Guard,” said Col. Donna Prigmore, 142nd Fighter Wing Vice Commander. “Khan epitomizes the National Guard motto of ‘always on mission.’ It’s because of people like him that the Air National Guard is always ready, always there,” Col. Prigmore said.
Sitler speaks passionately about his Air Force job and the Air National Guard mission. “It takes continual practice to be ready to provide air superiority at any time, at any place. It’s not an exaggeration to say that for every hour spent in the air, at least five or more hours are spent on the ground planning, preparing, briefing, and debriefing each and every sortie. The American people expect us to be ready, and we’re ready to live up to that demand,” he said.
Colonel Sitler was commissioned in May 1996 after graduating from the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Upon completion of Undergraduate Pilot Training and F-15 Training, he was assigned to the 493rd Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom. He served as a Combat Mission Ready Wingman, Flight-Lead, Mission Commander and Instructor Pilot.
In 2001, Col. Sitler was assigned to the 71st Fighter Squadron at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. He served as a Combat Mission Ready Instructor Pilot and Weapons Officer after completing the United States Air Force Weapons School in 2003. In 2004 he was assigned to the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, where he served as the Chief of F-15 Projects.
Sitler separated from active-duty Air Force in January of 2007 and joined the 142nd Fighter Wing, Oregon Air National Guard. He has served as Squadron and Wing Weapons Officer, Flight Commander, Squadron Operations Officer, Wing Consolidated Unit Inspection Project Officer, and Fighter Squadron Commander.
by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier
366th Fighter Wing/ Public Affairs
2/25/2016 – MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho — Over 200 airmen returned to Mountain Home AFB after participating Combat Archer and Hammer from Jan. 25 to Feb. 12 at Tyndall AFB, Florida.
Combat Archer and Hammer, a Weapons System Evaluation Program, combines the live air-to-air missile firing of Combat Archer and the air-to-ground bomb drops of Combat Hammer.
“I feel the TDY was a tremendous success,” said Maj. Peter Yule, 389th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations. “It took a tremendous team effort to get all the jets, personnel and associated cargo out of town and then back again. But, everyone went above and beyond to make it happen.”
Performing this TDY not only took the coordination of many squadrons across the 366th Fighter Wing, but also the assistance from fellow airman with Travis AFB who provided airlift, Yule explained.
“It was a great feeling to see how many people were involved in a direct hit,” said 1st Lt. Daniel Brosnan, 389th Fighter Squadron weapons system operator. “The integration of the wing coming together to support this TDY was huge.”
The dropping of 55 bombs, missiles and the 243 sorties flown for Combat Archer and Hammer took the efforts of many different Air Force specialties. Aircrew, flight doctors, aviation resource management, aircrew flight management, weather and a number of other career fields from maintenance to include crew chiefs, ammo and maintainers attended this event.
For many of the aircrew members this was their first time firing live missiles at drone targets.
“To say we are going to go out and simulate this is great, but there is no replacement for actually getting to go out and do it with the real thing and see the effects immediately,” Brosnan said. “There’s just no replacement for training with the actual weapons that we are going to deliver when we go to combat.”
Not only was it the real thing for the pilots and WSOs, Combat Archer and Hammer gave maintainers and members of logistics the opportunity to deliver and attach the bombs to an aircraft before takeoff and see it comeback with nothing.
“Everyone, from maintenance, to operations, to logistics walked away from the TDY better than we were before we went,” Yule said. “The experience gained will contribute greatly to the 389th FS and 366th FW as a whole to be able to provide superior combat airpower in support of the U.S. and its interests, anywhere, anytime.”