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The State wrote:Shaw airmen settle in Afghanistan
Unit in war zone for four months
By CHUCK CRUMBO
Monday, Jan. 04, 2010
Shortly after arriving in Afghanistan, airmen from Shaw Air Force Base settled into a routine.
Work, go to the gym, read e-mails, grab a bite to eat, check online class work, sleep and then more work.
"Life is busy, and it's getting busier," said Capt. Jeffrey Shulman of Columbia. "The days vary, but overall it's been very productive and very rewarding."
Shulman is among 200 airmen of the 79th Fighter Squadron that deployed in October to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
The F-16 unit from Shaw, which includes pilots, administrative staffers, mechanics and technicians, is about halfway through a four-month tour.
Living in an austere environment - where a trip to the bathroom means hiking several yards in the snow through a maze of tents and plywood huts - seems to have a positive effect on the airmen.
"There's pretty much a family environment here that is really nice," said Staff Sgt. Jamie Dixon of Sumter. "Everyone looks out for each other, and that's pretty good to have."
Bagram, too, is huge compared to Shaw. More than 20,000 U.S. service members are at Bagram, compared with about 6,000 based at Shaw.
The airmen are housed in plywood huts, usually eight people to a building. In some of the huts, airmen have built plywood partitions for a little privacy.
While it might not be home, the accommodations are far better than those of ground troops camped at small bases in the mountains, Shulman said.
Until recently, the prospect of a Shaw squadron stationed at Bagram seemed remote.
That's because the runway, originally built by the Soviets when they occupied the country in the 1980s, had been in poor condition. Other planes and helicopters operating at Bagram kicked up rocks and debris that could be sucked into the F-16's air intake under the fuselage, rendering a fatal blow to the engine.
But since 2007, the U.S. military has poured millions of dollars into the base for an assortment of projects, including a new runway and ramp. The rock problem is under control, officials said.
The 79th is only the second F-16 squadron to deploy at Bagram. The first was from Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
The one thing about Afghanistan that has impressed the pilots most is the mountainous terrain, where peaks soar higher than 25,000 feet high.
When referring to the terrain, pilots use the term "standard mountains," said Lt. Col. Ken Ekman, the squadron commander.
"The mountains are so commonplace, they're so big and overwhelming that you just take them for granted," said Ekman, of Panama City, Fla.
Although the squadron trained over mountain ranges in the western United States, the vistas from a F-16 flying over Afghanistan are awe-inspiring, the pilots said.
"They're gorgeous, and they're huge," Shulman said.
For pilots, most missions last four to six hours, much longer than the 60- to 90-minute training flights pilots usually fly out of Shaw.
"You get used to it pretty quick," said Capt. Dave Snodgrass, of Fort Worth, Texas.
The pilots' primary job is to provide close-air support for U.S. and coalition troops on the ground. Sometimes, that job calls for dropping a bomb on enemy positions or just flying overhead, making enough noise to scare off attackers.
The pilots also use the planes' electronic gear to look for bombs that might be planted along a convoy route.
Flying goes on day and night, and the Shaw airmen have pulled a variety of missions.
"Each time, it's different and that's what keeps it interesting," said Capt. David Finkel, of Los Angeles, who earned college money flying radio station reporters over freeways and towing ad banners along California beaches.
While most missions are aimed at supporting ground troops, on Nov. 19 Shaw airmen were called on to patrol the skies over the Afghan capital of Kabul during President Hamid Karzai's inauguration.
The unit, though, is used to such missions, Ekman said, noting that Shaw fighters have routinely patrolled U.S. skies since the 9/11 attacks. That includes flying over major sporting events and even space shuttle launches from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
The toughest part of the pilot's job is dealing with sudden tempo changes.
A pilot can fly for hours and then be called on at a moment's notice to zoom in and provide armed support for troops engaged in a ground battle.
"Things can be calm, cool on the ground for the soldier, and then his day can go really bad," Ekman said.
Despite being thousands of miles from home, the airmen say they're getting plenty of support from families and the Sumter community.
"The care packages are nice to receive," said Dixon, who's an administrative aide. "We even get cards from local schools."
Added Finkel: "Keep us in your thoughts. That's good enough for me knowing people back home are thinking about us."
Deseret News wrote:Hill Air Force Base airmen deploy to Afghanistan
by Joseph M. Dougherty
Published: Monday, Feb. 1, 2010 12:12 p.m. MST
HILL AIR FORCE BASE — About 260 people from Hill Air Force Base deployed during the past week to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Most of the airmen — pilots as well as maintenance and support personnel — are from the active-duty 388th Fighter Wing and reserve 419th Fighter Wing. They will make up the 34th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, known as the Rude Rams, at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and will be deployed to the region for at least 120 days, according to a news release from Hill.
The pilots will use the F-16 Fighting Falcon in close-air support missions to protect coalition ground forces.
Hill regularly deploys in support of Operation Enduring Freedom missions, the release states. In July 2009, F-16 jets, pilots and maintenance and support personnel assigned to the 421st Fighter Squadron — the Black Widows — and 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit deployed to Bagram. It was the first F-16 unit from the United States to deploy to that location. They returned in October.
About 20 Air Force reservists from the 419th Fighter Wing volunteered to deploy alongside their active-duty counterparts and will continue to do so during future 388th Fighter Wing rotations in support of overseas contingency operation.
Deseret News wrote:Hill maintainers keep F-16 flying for 40 missions
By Joseph M. Dougherty
Published: Tuesday, April 20, 2010 10:55 p.m. MDT
HILL AIR FORCE BASE — In late March, Hill Air Force Base commanders were impressed that their airmen, deployed to Afghanistan, had managed to keep an F-16 flying for 30 straight missions without a mechanical failure.
Imagine how they feel knowing that same plane made it to its 40th straight mission before landing with some mechanical issues that needed some time to work out.
Thirty straight missions is unheard of by military commanders with decades of experience. And 40, well, it's just amazing.
"The fact that we had one of our F-16s fly 40 code 1 sorties in the combat environment is a true testament to the teamwork and excellence of our maintainers and operators," said Col. David Hathaway, vice commander of the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base. "I'm very proud of the men and women of the 34th Fighter Squadron and 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit currently serving in Afghanistan."
Air Force senior leadership has taken note of the plane's crew chief, Staff Sgt. Lucas Inboden, and his entire team. They have been recognized for their professionalism, teamwork and technical skill.
So what finally grounded the F-16 with tail No. 2119?
On March 30, it landed with two problems, or discrepancies, as the Air Force calls them:
<ul><li>The right fuel tank was slow to feed. Through troubleshooting, maintainers revealed a bad fuel flow proportioner, which took 24 hours to diagnose and fix.</li><li>The second discrepancy appeared to be a weapons issue that the maintenance team is still working on.</li></ul>
source: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/7000 ... sions.html
Fox13Now wrote:Troops arrive home after five months in Afghanistan
Elisabeth Archer, Staff Writer Fox 13 News
11:28 AM MDT, May 28, 2010
SALT LAKE CITY - Family members gathered at Hill Air Force Base Friday morning to welcome home 300 Airmen returning from a five month deployment from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The F-16 jets, pilots and maintainers left in January assigned to the 34th Fighter Squadron, 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, and other 388th and 419th Fighter Wing squadrons.
The deployment, in support of the Operation Enduring Freedom, was the second time F-16's set out to Afghanistan from Hill Air Force Base.
The airmen's mission was to maintain security and stability in the region and provide close air support for coalition ground troops in Afghanistan.
source: http://www.fox13now.com/news/kstu-troop ... 3978.story