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F-16 Fighting Falcon News

55th FS deploy for Combat Hammer

May 9, 2008 (by 2nd Lt. Noelle Caldwell) - It's not every day Airmen here get the chance to work with live, expensive bombs for the Fighting Falcon, but the Shooters are out the door for another deployment on a mission to get some practice.

Lt. Col. Miles 'Quatro' Demayo, 55th FS commander, takes off in F-16C block 50 #92-3920 for Hill AFB on May 9th, 2008 in support of Operation Combat Hammer. [USAF photo by SSgt. Nathan Bevier]

The 55th Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit here deployed 16 jets and 172 Airmen Friday to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, for Operation "Combat Hammer."

"With hands-on experience, we'll be more equipped to adapt to what we'll face out on the battlefield when we are called to employ ordnance. This deployment is crucial in preparing us for future combat operations," Lt. Col. Miles DeMayo, 55th Fighter Squadron commander said.

Combat Hammer is a deployment that allows the squadron to be operationally assessed on the effectiveness and suitability of weapons and weapons systems in several different tactical scenarios.

"Hill Air Force Base has some of the best air-to-ground bombing ranges in the world, so it's a really great opportunity for us," said Capt. Steve Atkinson, a 55th FS pilot.

So much an opportunity, that it will be the first time for some pilots who will get to "pickle," or release bombs they haven't dropped before, the Captain said.

From building weapons to loading them onto the aircraft, then dropping them from the jet, "It's all for our own training," he said.

But it's not only about getting practice dropping bombs; it's how well the Shooters can do it and be evaluated in a report that the squadron will take back when they head home.

"Everybody is always going to be watching over somebody's shoulder making sure they get it right," said Master Sgt. Michael Colboth, 55th AMU Weapons Section chief.

From the time they get the munitions out of the box, put it together and deliver it to the flight line, "It gives ammo guys practice building munitions and it gives loaders practice loading a variety of weapons to put 'warheads on foreheads'," Sergeant Colboth said.

"It's what it's all about," he said.

Unlike the Shooter's deployment last month to Nellis AFB where their primary mission was to support four other fighter squadrons at Weapons Instructors Course, Combat Hammer is practice and evaluation solely reserved for the 55th.

"It's all about our squadron--an evaluation of the 55th," Captain Atkinson said.

"There's nothing better than seeing a jet come back without its weapons on it, because all that time spent working on the jet meant we did our job right," Sergeant Colboth said. "It makes you proud to see that."

"Avionics, technicians, pilots, flight line crew chiefs. It takes all of us to make this happen," the Sergeant said.

Courtesy 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Additional images:

Ready for a Combat Hammer sortie is USAF F-16C block 50 #93-0540 operated by the 55th FS and caught on camera on August 19th, 2006 at Hill AFB. [Photo by Duane Kaiser]

Deployed for Combat Hammer at Hill AFB is F-16C block 50 #91-0394, a 55th FS jet from Shaw AFB as seen here on August 19th, 2006. [Photo by Duane Kaiser]