August 28, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - About 300 members of the South Carolina Air National Guard are heading to Okinawa, Japan this
week to begin a six-week training mission, officials announced.
Four USAF F-16CJ block 50/52 aircraft from the 22nd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and the 157th EFS 'Swamp Foxes' South Carolina ANG, await takeoff clearance at a forward deployed location prior to a combat mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Twelve of the unit's 18 F-16C fighter jets, as well as most of the pilots and support units from the 169th Fighter Wing, will operate out of Kadena Air Base which allows them to train with Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps units in the Pacific theater.
One thing on the pilots' agenda is to sharpen their air-to-air combat skills by training with the F-15 fighters stationed at Kadena.
The unit's pilots and support crews have trained in the United States since returning in May 2003 from deployment in Iraq, where they flew more than 400 combat missions.
The fighter jets are scheduled to depart today from McEntire Joint National Guard Base, while most of the men and women participating in the exercise will leave later this week.
The 157th Fighter Squadron was the first ANG
Squadron to receive F-16, in fact before some Air Force unit received F-16's. Delivery of the first F-16 was in July 1983, they were block 10
's and replaced A-7D's. In 1995 the 'Swamp Foxes' received as one of the few ANG F-16 units the HTS-equiped F-16 block 52
The unit was one of only two ANG F-16 units to participate in operation Desert Storm. From their base at Al Kharj they flew 1,729 sorties in and played a crucial role in the allied air offensive.
The unit also deployed to Turkey
for operation Northern Watch in early 2000.
In February 2003 all of its F-16s were mobilized and deployed to Southwest Asia as part of what became Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unit flew more than 400 combat missions, performing the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) mission and flying numerous precision bombing missions over Iraq.