104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base Receives its 8th Air Force Outstanding Unit Award

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104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, Massachusetts was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (AFOUA) earlier this month. The AFOUA is awarded to active duty or Reserve/National Guard units which perform "exceptionally meritorious service, and accomplishes specific acts of outstanding achievement," according to Air Force guidelines.

The award was presented for accomplishments and achievements during the period of Nov 2009 to October 2011. During this time, the unit successfully converted from the A-10 Warthog to the F-15 Eagle, and began its new mission of Aerospace Control Alert (ACA). The ACA mission provides around the clock protection of the Northeast corridor of the United States, providing air-to-air support in response to national emergencies or airborne threats. The new mission was a result of 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commissions directed changes, and required an investment of about $48 million in modernization and construction.

"This award recognized more than two years of very hard work by the members of this Wing," said Col. Robert Brooks, Commander, 104th Fighter Wing. "I am very proud of the members of this incredible unit, and honored to work with individuals who continually achieve excellence in all that they do." Brooks took command of the 104th Fighter Wing in August of 2008, during the height of the conversion from the A-10 to the F-15.

The AFOUA was awarded for more than just the successful aircraft conversion and successful ACA mission adoption. During the 2009 to 2011 time period, the Wing also achieved excellence in numerous inspections and evaluations, including a 9th Air Force Standardization and Evaluation inspection; an Air Combat Command Inspector General's Unit Compliance Inspection; an Air National Guard Logistics Compliance Assessment; and an Environmental, Safety and Occupational Health Compliance Assessment. In all of these inspections, the 104th Fighter Wing was noted as "outstanding" or "best seen."

During this time period, the unit also deployed over 250 airmen in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle and New Dawn, awarding members three Bronze Stars for actions while in theater. Over 30 other members were recognized at the national level for excellence in family support, piloting, finance, security, vehicle operations, fuels and intelligence.

In August of 2010, the 104th Fighter Wing hosted the largest Air Show to date, featuring the United States Air Force Thunderbirds. Over 250,000 people attended the show, generating nearly $14 million in economic stimulus to Western Mass.

This is the eighth time the Wing has earned the Outstanding Unit Award, since its inception in 1946. "The 104th Fighter Wing has proven itself again and again," said Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, Commander of the Mass. Air National Guard. "The Wing has maintained a culture of excellence, maintaining very high standards as an organization, and as individual members. We could not be prouder of this unit's history and heritage, and plan to continue this well into the future, but being in the right place, at the right time, with the right people."