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79th FS returns home from Southwest Asia

December 23, 2006 (by SrA John Gordinier) - Nearly 140 pilots, maintainers, crew chiefs and loaders from the 79th Fighter Squadron returned to Shaw AFB Dec. 19 from Exercise Iron Falcon 0701 in Southwest Asia.

Iron Falcon is to Southwest Asia what Red Flag is to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., said Lt. Col. Donald Butler, 79th FS commander.

"Iron Falcon is designed to develop the capabilities of the coalition forces. All participants bring upgrade pilots and specific weapons systems to complete a mission commander syllabus with increased levels of complexity. These scenarios had a variety of missions from offensive counter-air to defensive counter-air as well as combat search and rescue support," Colonel Butler said.

"Additionally, the exercise built strong relationships with coalition nations," Colonel Butler said. "These relationships are important so that when we're called upon to deploy, we can execute any mission in this area of operations."

During the exercise, pilots from the United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and France trained together to accomplish mission commander upgrades, the colonel said. The upgrades train mission commanders to not only effectively utilize and employ their aircraft formation, but to also incorporate other formations to accomplish an overall objective. This is the last step in effectively training an experienced mission commander to employ on a large scale in combat.

The mission commander upgrade course consisted of 18 large-force exercise scenarios, said Maj. David Lercher, 79th FS commander's special assistant. The 79th FS had four pilots qualify as mission commanders at Iron Falcon: Capts. Sean Renbarger, Cesar Orozco, Greg Jenkins and Travis Clegg. "If we were to deploy tomorrow, these pilots are now qualified to lead scores of aircraft," he said.

During the 24-day exercise, the 79th FS flew 143 sorties, day and night, for a total of 299 flying hours with six aircraft and 15 pilots, Colonel Butler said.

"Overall, the exercise was a success," Colonel Butler said. "Many lessons were learned and many successes were derived from each mission with the biggest lesson learned centering on how to employ multinational forces together to achieve positive mission results with minimal losses."

The exercise built strong ties with coalition forces and had a positive impact for U.S. relations in the Southwest Asia region, the colonel said.

Courtesy of 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Additional images:

USAF F-16C block 50 #00-6035 from the 79th FS is parked on the tarmac at Shaw AFB. This aircraft was originally known as #00-0227, but was reserialled after functioning as a block 60 testbed for the UAEAF. [Photo by Jake Melampy]
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