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Eglin wing picks ups missions from Louisiana ANG

by 2nd Lt. David Tomiyama
33rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

9/15/2005 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFPN) -- As many of the bases Air Force-wide support Joint Task Force-Katrina, the 33rd Fighter Wing here is doing its part by scrambling to help the Louisiana Air National Guard.

Just 36 hours after the wing’s 60th Fighter Squadron returned from a Hurricane Katrina evacuation Aug. 31, the squadron has been on 24-hour alert and flying missions supporting Operation Noble Eagle -- taskings originally assigned to the ANG's 159th FW.

"The (Louisiana) Guard was doing the alert requirement for Operation Noble Eagle," said Maj. Denny Scarborough, 60th FS assistant director of operations. "What we did as part of our response and the Air Force's response is to work through Air Combat Command and pick up their responsibility."

The 60th FS's Operation Noble Eagle responsibility also includes other missions that come down from the Southeast Air Defense Sector. For example, when President Bush visited the Katrina-battered areas of the Gulf Coast Sept. 2 and 5 and Sept. 11 to 12, the 60th FS was in the sky protecting the president.

"The president was in New Orleans (on Sept. 2), and he was also in Mississippi on (Sept. 5); 60th FS (F-15) Eagles were airborne providing combat air patrol over those (areas) while the president was touring," Major Scarborough said. "We've been extremely involved with the hurricane relief efforts in terms of supporting the alert commitment as well as other taskings."

Whether the president was in the air or on the ground, the 60th FS ensured his safety.

"We had a continual presence guarding the president," said Lt. Col. Robert Provost, 33rd FW director of staff. "There was never a time the president did not have coverage."

Having only 36 hours before beginning the new Operation Noble Eagle commitment, the 60th FS Airmen hustled to get themselves trained and ready to go.

"Roughly half of our squadron had never done ONE alert before, and we paired those members with individuals who had … to balance out the experience and bring everybody up to speed," said Lt. Col. Andrew Toth, 60th FS commander. "The entire team pulled together, and each member of the squadron took it upon themselves to help out in whatever way possible.

"The weapons shop and 33rd Operations Support Squadron worked especially hard mission planning and worked to get three months worth of academics presented in a four-hour period to ensure the pilots were ready for any potential tasking," he said. "I'm extremely proud of the way everyone in both operations and maintenance pulled together to make this happen."

The 159th FW works out of the New Orleans airport and received damage to their buildings and infrastructure from Hurricane Katrina; however, aircraft and personnel issues have grounded them from being able to support the ONE mission.

"The primary reason we've taken this task is so that not only (can the 159th FW) deal with how they are going to get their aircraft bedded down … but also (to) allow the family members and the (Louisiana guardsmen) to deal with the catastrophic loss that's occurred in the New Orleans area," Major Scarborough said.

Being on 24-hour alert involves preparation and coordination. The pilots ensure the aircraft and backup are ready to go at a moment’s notice, and that maintainers share the same plan with the pilots in case the call comes to scramble. While on alert, pilots are in their flight and G-suits and boots.

They might sleep, study or watch a football game, but all the while, they do not completely relax because they are expected to be in the air in a short amount of time, said Lt. Col. Craig King, 33rd FW chief of safety.

The 60th FS will be taking on the guard's ONE mission for an undetermined amount of time.

"It can be anywhere from 30 days (to four months); we're not quite sure,” Major Scarborough said. “But bottom line -- it's going to be for the foreseeable future that we'll be picking up those responsibilities. We've got a mission now, and we're going to fully support it and we're going to do our best to provide the appropriate amount of aircraft, pilots and (maintainers) to ensure that 24-hour alert commitment."

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