F-16 Fighting Falcon News

NATO called - Shaw responded (Part 1)

February 3, 2012 (by SrA Daniel Phelps) - Jets from the 20th Fighter Wing provided a key role in taking a down corrupt regime during Operation Unified Protector.

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A USAF F-16C pilot from the 77th FS makes final adjustments inside of his jet before taking off from Shaw AFB to support Operation Unified Protector. The 20th FW received short notice deployment orders and departed in less than 48 hours. [USAF photo by TSgt. Louis Rivers]

Their actions in OUP led to the capture of Moammar Gadhafi, the Libyan dictator for 42 years, by the Libyan revolutionaries on Oct. 20, 2011. The 20th FW first sent support at the beginning of April to support NATO forces in protecting the Libyan civilians from the dictatorship.

"Around the middle of March, when things were starting to heat up in Libya, we were starting to pay attention," said Col. Charlie Moore, 20th FW commander. "It became apparent that we were probably going to go as we were on the Global Response Force at the time."

The GRF statement tells how fast a unit has to generate and send out a certain number of airplanes and a certain amount of people to anywhere in the world to accomplish their primary mission sets.

Due to other taskings, European based units were unable to support the deployment, Moore explained.

"Spanghahlem Air Base, Germany had orders to go to Balad Air Base, Iraq," Moore added. "What would have been required was for them to be relieved from those orders and us to go to Balad instead. The option of them keeping their orders and us going to Aviano just made more sense."

Finally, the word came down when the Secretary of Defense signed the deployment orders March 31, Moore said. The tasking was passed on to the 77th Fighter Squadron, "Gamblers," since they were the ones on the GRF.

From the time the word came down to the first personnel deploying out was less than 48 hours.

"This can happen at any time," Moore explained. "We practice this during our operation readiness inspections. It's not just the ability to get people there, but to get them there in a certain timeline. We did it even faster than we were required."

"We beat our GRF deployment timeline by 50 percent," said Lt. Col. Johnny Vargas, 77th FS commander. "This was truly a testament to our 20th Logistics Readiness Squadron that made it happen."

The 77th FS was en route to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. for an integration exercise when they got the call, Vargas said.

"The main body landed in Vegas, deplaned, hung out in base operations, got back on the plane and got home all on the same day," Vargas explained.

The fight began for the 77th FS once they received the order.

On the way back to Shaw from Vegas, the team organized themselves into their shops by rows on the plane and started developing the game plan for how we were going to take it to the enemy, Vargas described.

"When we arrived at Shaw I told them to take the weekend to spend time with their families since we were about to deploy," he added.

However, the Gamblers were motivated.

"I came in that weekend to take care of some paperwork and every single person was here in the (mission planning) vault," Vargas boasted. "The weapons officer had put together a mission planning cell and they came down with a way to take down the Libyan air defense systems."

The plans the 77th FS developed in the initial hours before their deployment were sent to the Spanghahlem guys because Spanghahlem hadn't had much time to develop their plan yet as they were the first responders, Vargas continued. "They used integration between our plans and theirs to start the fight."

After the Gamblers deployed, they officially took over the air tasking orders from Spanghahlem April 8 with 166 Airmen, six jets and six tons of operations cargo joining up with NATO as the first Air Combat Command squadron in the area of responsibility.

This is part one of a four-part series on the 20th Fighter Wing's role in Operation Unified Protector.

Courtesy of 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs