Last F-16s out provide joint support for Balad

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Natasha Stannard
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The 480th Fighter Squadron recently returned from their first deployment where they flew missions to keep a watchful eye on the joint-force withdrawal from Iraq as the last F-16 Fighting Falcons left Balad.

This responsibility didn't fall solely on the pilots. The 480th "Warhawks" deployed 190 maintainers who kept 16 deployed F-16s, flown by 32 pilots, flight ready.

Additional agencies in the squadron also deployed, assuring protection of ground forces.

In order to fly, squadron members kept equipment up to standards, sustained aircraft readiness and mechanics, ensured pilots were medically ready and trained for flight and disseminated intelligence, all for optimal mission effectiveness.

The 480th FS aviation resource managers ensured each Airmen and each piece of equipment met flight standards. They tracked flight hours, training hours, sorties, flight physicals, aircrew qualifications, flight requirements, performance and overall mission effectiveness.

"We track all aviation information for the pilots and clear them for flight," said Tech. Sgt. Natalia Reynoso-Easley, 480th FS aviation resource manager NCO in charge. "If we don't clear those pilots, the ground troops aren't being supported. We get close-air support out there in minutes."

Spangdahlem pilots flew 9,000 hours during this deployment. In that flight time, they completed 2,259 sorties protecting 11,378 service members aiding the apprehention of 121 insurgents. These sorties included convoy, base and task force mission protections.

"Our mission was to provide close-air support for our Army brethren on the ground," said Capt. David Dubel, 480th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot who flew the last combat sortie out of Balad. "Most of what we did was convoy support - helping troops on the ground get equipment and people moved out of the country safely."

In addition to providing convoy support, they also flew task-force missions.

"Special forces were on the ground executing their missions, and we supported them from above," he explained. "We also did counter [roadside bomb] searches by scanning routes from the air before missions. We would scope out the area giving them a heads up if anything was there."

They also kept bases protected by preventing and searching for sources of indirect fire.

"Essentially, we looked for any insurgents setting up [attacks]," he said. "Anytime a Warhawk was over a base, convoy or any operation, not a single American life was lost.

"Our presence made a difference in the security of our U.S. Forces there," he added.