F-16 Fighting Falcon News

Indiana Air National Guard set to deploy to SW Asia

January 9, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The Indian ANG 122nd wing will be deployed in upcoming days to Southwest Asia, officials announced. Col. Jeffery A. Soldner, 122nd commander, did not give specific numbers, but said it is the largest single deployment for the wing since it was called to Chambley, France, in 1961 during the Berlin Crisis.

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USAF F-16C block 25 #85-1416 from the 163rd FS is ready to go on a wet tarmac at Ellington Field ANGB. [Photo by Cristopher A. Ebdon]

The weather conditions will most likely be overcast, windy and cold when they arrive on location. The wing deployed to that region before but this is the first time they during cooler weather. Capt. Brian Frazier appreciates the recent dreary, overcast and cold weather in Fort Wayne. "It's perfect," said Frazier, who trains F-16 pilots in the 163rd Fighter Squadron, a part of the 122nd Fighter Wing based at Fort Wayne International Airport.

Where soldiers in the unit will be sent for the Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment won't be released until they have arrived, said Lt. Lauri Turpin, community manager with the 122nd. It's unknown how long they will be gone, she said.

The deployment date is classified, he said, and a specific location would not be disclosed until the unit comprising fighter pilots, maintenance and support personnel is in place.

Although these deployment orders were recently received, training and preparations for this task has been the wings primary focus for the past six months.

Lt. Col. Michael D. Stohler, director of operations for the 163rd FS and one of three local pilots who recently received a medal for heroism during a previous 100-day tour of duty in Iraq, outlined possible missions. They will likely guide convoys to their destination, support on-ground raids, deploy weapons upon targets and provide aerial assistance to ground-level operations.

Where soldiers in the unit will be sent for the Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment won't be released until they have arrived, said Lt. Lauri Turpin, community manager with the 122nd. It's unknown how long they will be gone, she said.

Members of the unit - nicknamed the Blacksnakes - have been used to provide air support for Army soldiers on the ground, surveillance and other tasks numerous times since Sept. 11, 2001.

Stohler was one of 10 F-16 pilots in the unit deployed to Iraq from May through September 2004 for this purpose.

Previously, the unit deployed 275 men and women to Qatar in August 2004 to serve for a month rotation and took part in an 18-month mission at Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, to patrol Iraq's no-fly zone in the summer of 2001.


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