May 13, 2011 (by SrA Alexandria Mosness) - The 20th Fighter Wing turned over responsibility for the air sovereignty alert mission to the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., May 6.
Capt. Weston Killian, 77th FS chief of weapons, launches F-16C block 50 #94-0045 down the flight-line for the last alert flight on May 6th, 2011. [USAF photo by A1C. Neil D. Warner]
The 20th FW took control of the alert mission Sept. 11, 2001 to Nov. 15, 2003 and again from Aug. 1, 2006 to May 9, 2011.
The alert mission is a critical component to the strategic force that is poised 24/7 to respond to airborne threats over the United States. The ASA mission requires three dedicated armed alert aircraft (two primaries and one spare) at each of the alert locations, with two pilots and associated maintenance and support personnel on duty 24/7.
"Shaw's role in the alert mission was to defend the Southeast Air Defense Sector and the 79 million American citizens within that sector from airborne threats," said Col. James Sears, 20th Operations Group commander.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the opening of the Air Force's newest alert site and the South Carolina Air National Guard's assumption of an important homeland defense mission.
"I want to thank the 20th FW for meeting the challenge despite all the other things I know you have to do," said Maj. Gen. Garry Dean, commander for the Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region - 1st Air Force, who spoke at the ceremony. "It's been an outstanding run."
While the 20th FW will continue to get tasked, Dean encouraged Shaw to take time to focus on developing Airmen and sharpen the human side of the war-fighting spear.
"We have led this mission without receiving any additional manpower, equipment, funding, or flying hours," Sears said. "With the 169th FW standup, we will be able to bring the manpower and resources which have been dedicated to the alert mission into our daily training and to upcoming area of responsibility deployments."
The changes for the 20th FW might seem minor to some, but will relieve pressure on the high operations tempo at Shaw, Sears said.
"For our defenders, it means one less post they must stand," Sears said. "For our maintenance professionals, it means the return of a large pool of very experienced men and women who will be returned to the flight line. For the operations group, this will mean a return to normal day-to-day operations for our aircrew flight, equipment technicians, airfield operations and scheduling and air traffic control personnel. Our pilots will be able to spend more time focusing on the primary counter-air mission of the (wing)."
As the 20th FW passes the alert mission to McEntire, Sears expressed Shaw's best wishes and great expectations.
"We wish the 169th FW and the (South Carolina) ANG
the best as they take on this critical mission of defending the southeast United States," Sears said.