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F-16 pilot promoted during Iraqi deployment

June 4, 2007 (by 1st Lt. Shannon Collins) - For one F-16CJ "Wild Weasel" pilot, receiving his promotion to captain was one of many memorable firsts during his deployment to Iraq from January to June for AEF 5/6.

Capt. Bryan Spence, an F-16 pilot with the 14th EFS, deployed from the 14th FS at Misawa, Japan, places an American flag in the cockpit of F-16C block 50 #90-0819 from the 14th FS before a combat mission May 29th, 2007.

Capt. Bryan Spence, a pilot with the 14th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, from Misawa Air Base, Japan, promoted to captain over the skies of Iraq during a combat sortie. During his deployment to Iraq, he flew his first combat sortie and flew a different mission than he was used to.

The F-16CJs normally perform a suppression of enemy air defenses mission, wherein they protect other aircraft from surface-to-air missiles using high speed anti-radiation missiles and conventional bombs. Here, they perform a close air support role with advanced targeting pods.

"It was challenging to take on the fire hose of information in transforming a SEAD squadron to a CAS squadron in a matter of months prior to our deployment," the captain said. "But in doing so, our squadron has now become the most combat capable fighter squadron in the Air Force, along with our sister squadron, the 13th EFS."

The Tyler, Texas, native joined the Air Force in 1999 when he headed to the Air Force Academy. He said he signed on for the standard flying and serving the country dream.

During his tour in Iraq, he had the chance to perform that mission.

"The most rewarding part was being there for our troops on the ground," Captain Spence said.

He attributes the success of his missions, along with the missions of his fellow pilots, to the maintainers with the 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron.

"I worked with several crew chiefs, and they are great. They perform a thankless job," he said. "They take such pride in their jets, and it means the world to them when they employ successfully in combat. That pride is why is mainly why the 14h EFS had a nearly flawless employment record and jet generation rate. These guys are outstanding."

The crew chiefs are proud of the pilot as well.

"Captain Spence takes a great amount of pride in what he does and what he represents," said Airman 1st Class Leroy Moody, the crew chief from the 332nd Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron who launched the captain out on his first and last combat mission. "It's not hard to see his sincerity and dedication to our mission here in Iraq. I have nothing but respect for the officer and man he is."

Airman Moody also launched and recovered the captain for his promotion.

"It is always an honor, but I'm glad I was the first to congratulate him for his promotion after his flight," he said.

Courtesy of 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Additional images:

Capt. Bryan Spence, an F-16 pilot with the 14th EFS, deployed from the 14th FS at Misawa AFB inspects his aircraft before a combat mission on May 30th, 2007. [USAF photo by 1st Lt. Shannon Collins]

Capt. Bryan Spence, an F-16 pilot with the 14th EFS, deployed from the 14th FS at Misawa AFB sprays a GBU symbol on a concrete barrier on May 30th. The GBU and weapon symbols represent each time the 14th EFS has dropped or fired upon insurgents in support of Army convoy defense. [USAF photo by 1st Lt. Shannon Collins]