October 3, 2008 (by Capt. Penny Carroll) - Since that unforgettable morning on September 11, 2001, the F-16s here have patrolled local skies and stood alert, ready to answer the nation's call to identify or intercept unresponsive or otherwise threatening aircraft.
F-16 pilot, Lt. Col. William Hargrove, prepares to launch in an alert jet as TSgt. Harold Hayes, aircraft armament systems specialist, goes over the procedures checklist on August 1st, 2008. The alert mission at the 127th Wing, Selfridge ANG Base was officially passed off to the 180th FW on October 2nd, 2008.
On Oct. 2, the 127th Wing officially handed off the alert mission to the 180th Fighter Wing, Toledo, Ohio, leaving the legacy of air sovereignty alert behind them.
At a ceremony held at the alert facility, which had been slated to be demolished late in September 2001, about 200 Airmen, family and community members filled seats in Cell-6 at the last moment. Originally the ceremony was to be held outdoors with a planned final scramble of Chevy 21 and 22. Rain, wind and cool temperatures forced the crowd indoors and cancelled the takeoff of jets. A ceremonial ringing of the klaxton and taxiing of two F-16s still marked the end of the 24-7 mission.
After the ceremony, guests had the opportunity to see where 127th Wing Airmen had spent those holidays, birthdays and so many other important missed occasions while performing their duties around the clock behind the secure wires of the Alert Facility.
127th Wing Commander, Brigadier General Peplinski, told the crowd during the ceremony, "It's amazing to think how far we've come, from standing up this mission where we had Airmen living in tents, to protecting these skies for seven years, including providing air defense support for events like the Super Bowl a few years ago. Thanks to all of you who made this mission successful. We couldn't have done it without the unending support of our families, our friends and our community."
The Deputy Commander of the Continental Region (CONR) - NORAD
, Brigadier General Andre' Viens, presented the 127th Wing with a commemorative plaque and remarked on the constant vigilance of the "107th Red Devils Squadron."
He said, "In spite of being deployed for Operation Northern Watch, in spite of having to live in this old facility, in spite of numerous deployments to Operation Iraqi Freedom, and in spite of a runway reconstruction that caused you to be based out of Battle Creek, you did not stop protecting the country for seven years."
Representatives from the Northeast Air Defense Sector also presented the wing gifts in tribute to the unceasing service of the Michigan Air National Guard.
Many of the Airmen who answered the call to duty were traditional status Guardsmen who now will be returning to the civilian workforce, or will face unemployment.
"I don't know how I'll react to having weekends off and not working 24-hour shifts!" joked Technical Sgt. Harold Hayes, an aircraft armament systems specialist with the 127th Wing. "I was placed on active duty orders in Nov. 2001, and I've been here for the past 7 years. As far as my plans go, I hope to get a technician position with the upcoming conversion to A-10's."
"As we move from the F-16 to the A-10, our unit is feeling the loss of standing ready at a moment's notice to serve our nation," said Alert Facility commander, Lt. Col. William Hargrove. "But as we begin our transition to the missions of the A-10 Thunderbolt, and many of us transition back to our civilian occupations, we will maintain our readiness to answer the call from our nation again - at a moment's notice."
This transition is one of the last of the changes brought to the 127th Wing from the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure commission. Earlier in the year the wing converted its airlift mission to the KC-135 Stratotanker refueling mission. By the end of 2008, the wing will no longer be flying the F-16 as it finalizes conversion to the A-10 Thunderbolt.