July 5, 2007 (by SrA Daniel Durbin) - The last of the 419th Fighter Wing's F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft left on June 28, signifying an end of an era and a beginning of another for the unit.
The last three F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 419th FW prepare to taxi for departure June 28 from Hill AFB, Utah.
The pilots and maintainers from the Air Force Reserve Command wing will now team up with Hill's active-duty 388th FW to carry out a joint flying mission. The transition is part of the Air Force's total force integration program, which joins similar units in an effort to increase overall combat capability.
The Air Force Reserve wing's entire fleet of block 30
F-16 aircraft are now assigned to other Reserve and Air National Guard units. The jets began departing in April. Seven went to the Iowa National Guard's 132nd Fighter Wing at Des Moines. Another jet transferred to the Wisconsin National Guard's 115th FW at Truax Field in Madison. The remaining nine jets are now assigned to the Reserve's 482nd FW at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla.
Hill's active-duty fighter wing will receive additional block 40
F-16 aircraft from Cannon AFB
, N.M., raising its total to more than 85 aircraft.
The departure of its last aircraft marked a significant milestone for the Reserve wing. Many 419th FW people said they'd miss seeing the Reserve aircraft on Hill's runway. The 419th FW has flown and maintained its own F-16 aircraft for more than 20 years.
Maj. Terry George, a 419th FW pilot, said he has always been proud to fly the wing's jets because they were expertly cared for by the wing's maintainers.
"Our jets are known as some of the best in the Air Force," Major George said. "These aircraft are special to many people here. Some of our maintainers have spent whole careers on one jet."
Senior Master Sgt. Craig Fowler, aircraft section flight chief for the 419th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, said he has a soft spot in his heart for his unit's jets.
"It's sad to see them go, but it opens up a new chapter of where we're going," he said.
Sergeant Fowler has worked on the same F-16 since 1993.
The wing's pilots and maintainers will now take on the task of melding their high experience levels with the increased personnel and resources of the 388th FW.
"We'll take the best of both worlds and make it better for everybody," Sergeant Fowler said.
"We will be an asset to the younger, active-duty personnel," added Senior Master Sgt. Louie Martinez, 419th Maintenance Squadron accessories flight chief. "We have seasoned professionals who have worked on (the F-16) for over 20 years."