104th FW members return from deployment

  • Published
  • By Capt. Mary L. Harrington, Public Affairs Officer
  • 104th Fighter Wing
Approximately 300 members of the 104th Fighter Wing (104FW) returned home to Barnes Air National Guard Base, Mass. on Friday, July 11 following a three-month deployment to the Central Command Area of Responsibility, participating in multinational exercises and providing a theater protection package.

Elated family and friends welcomed the members with cheers, tears and hugs. Expressions of thankfulness and relief were everywhere. This deployment marks the first aviation deployment since the unit conversion to the F-15. The last aviation deployment was in 2003 with the onset of the 2nd Gulf War.

"It was no vacation, but the hectic work schedule made the time fly," explained Maj. Michael Dibrindisi, 104FW Maintenance officer. Throughout the deployment many members worked six days a week, 12-hour shifts. The temperatures were as high as 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

The 90-day deployment included participation in Exercise EAGER LION 12, an exercise in Jordon where 19 countries and about 11,000 people worked together to develop shared tactics for contingencies in the Middle East. All military services were represented, exercising all facets of conflict/emergency planning, from logistics, and combat search and rescue to theater security missions. According to U.S. Central Command, the exercise promoted cooperation and interoperability among participating forces; it built functional capacity, practiced crisis management, and enhanced readiness.

At Exercise EAGER LION 12, "the Barnes family accounted for about half of the population of the 346th Air Expeditionary Group and 99 percent of the personality," said Col. Ken Lambrich, 104 FW Operations Group Commander. The final stats for EAGER LION were above the active duty average, and demonstrated the true strength of the Air Guard: Sorties planned - 94; Sorties flown - 97; Weather Cancels (CNX) - 17; Maintenance CNX - 0; Ops CNX -0; Spares used - 0; Maintenance effective sortie rate - 121 percent; total effective sortie rate - 103 percent.

"Both the Saudis and Jordanians commented several times on how much they enjoy flying with the American Eagles because of our professionalism. We conducted many host nation engagement events and built strong relationships with our Jordanian partners," said Lt. Col. Alex Haldopoulos, 131st Fighter Squadron Commander.

The wing also received accolades from senior Air Force leadership including Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Lofgren, the Base Commander. "On one particular day, Lofgren walked past all spectators and Eagle Supervision and directly to the Crew Chiefs that launched the Eagles (our F-15s) and congratulated them on a spectacular job. He wanted to talk to OUR Crew Chiefs; no one else. The General made the Crew Chief's day," said Chief Master Sgt. Galen Wilson.

"During our short stay at EAGER LION 12, we hosted six general officer visits, including the Royal Jordanian Air Force Chief of Staff. We were also visited by the Command Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force and the CENTCOM Command Chief Master Sgt. Each of these distinguished visitors relayed how impressed they were with the Air Expeditionary Group as a whole and ANG personnel in particular. It was great to showcase the proud Barnestormer tradition of excellence," said Lambrich.

"I am extremely proud of the Wing's performance on this deployment," said Col. Robert Brooks, Commander, 104FW. "At home and abroad, we continue to set the bar for excellence. This is not my prejudice, but validated by other senior leaders, U.S. and international. What an honor it is be part of this incredible organization, and how wonderful it is to be home!"