April 7, 2008 (by 2nd. Lt. Noelle Caldwell) - It's not just the roll of the dice; the Shooters are headed for Vegas.
A 55th Fighter Squadron F-16 returns to the parking ramp after another local training mission.
Starting April 8, approximately 200 Airmen and 16 F-16s from the 55th Fighter Squadron are and Aircraft Maintenance Unit here are deploying to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. for nearly three weeks of training for the Weapons Instructors Course.
"Our primary mission is to support the students in four Weapons School squadrons," said Capt. Sean Penrod, a 55th FS
By serving and providing valid training aids for the 17th, 16th, 66th and 433rd Fighter Squadrons, Shaw will help student pilots at Nellis graduate their weapons school officers in exchange for helping the 55th pilots and maintainers prepare for their upcoming deployment in September.
"We're getting focused and in the mentality of going to war," said Master Sgt. David Mason, 55th AMU specialist section chief.
"All this is gearing toward (the deployment) because our mission is training for when we're called into the real flight," Sergeant Mason said.
One aspect Captain Penrod said was unique to this deployment is training to the Close Air Support mission and providing "blue air," or playing "the good guys," instead of only support in an "aggressor" role.
"The greatest thing we get for us in the CAS
practice, and by being 'red air' (hostile) forces, we get better by practicing to shoot'em down," Captain Penrod said.
For the maintainers, Sergeant Mason said they'll also have an opportunity to get practice configuring different munitions on the F-16CJs for different missions.
"Weapons system aircraft guys get to load different weapons munitions that they normally don't get to load as well as getting training and familiarization with it," Sergeant Mason said.
"We don't get to play with the F-15Es here like we at Nellis," he said.
"You fly with and against the best Air Force pilots; briefing and flying with those people will only help us become better," the Captain said.
The F-16 pilot also said this is a unique opportunity where the 55th will get to employ suppression and destruction of enemy air defense tactics as well as fly the traditional "red air" missions.
"It's exciting to learn the latest and greatest tactics and expand your knowledge of enemy tactics," he said. "We will get some of our best training opportunities and academics from the greatest instructors in the world."
This deployment is one of several the 55th Fighter Squadron is doing to prepare for their Air Expeditionary Force rotation coming in September.
"Everything you do on that jet counts. Every detail is take care of so the mission isn't jeopardizing to (our) people and what they do," Sergeant Mason said.