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Military

F-15 Strike Eagles take over close air support mission at Bagram

by Staff Sgt. Carlos Diaz
U.S. Central Command Air Forces Public Affairs


2/10/2007 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNEWS) -- The F-15 Strike Eagle recently swapped out with the A-10 Thunderbolt II to assume responsibility of the close air support mission here.

The F-15s are assigned to the 391st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and are deployed from the 391st Fighter Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.

Approximately 200 squadron members collaborate to make the CAS mission happen every day. "It's been a significant integration for us," said Capt. Joe Ryther, 391st EFS weapons system officer. "So far, it's been a great experience."

That experience involved the completion of a $68 million runway and aircraft ramp in December. The runway and aircraft ramp can handle most aircraft in the military's inventory.

Captain Ryther explained the type of CAS the F-15s provide. "When a Joint Terminal Attack Controller is on the ground with the troops, he'll call for air power. Then we'll go to a certain location to monitor from the air and wait for them to ask for support. At that point, they call in for air support and talk us onto the target area by giving us coordinates of a target they need destroyed."

Captain Ryther is proud of the CAS mission. "We're very proud to be able to help out our ground troops," he added. "We come over here and we're really a support asset to them. They are the backbone of what's going on over here. Every day I see them, it's an honor for me to help."

The captain points out that one of the main reasons the F-15s conduct the mission flawlessly is because of the maintenance performed on them.

The work the maintainers perform is nothing short of magic, Capt. Ryther said.
One of those magicians is Senior Airman Robert James.

"We do launch recovery of the jet," Airman James said. "Basically, we're in communication with the pilots the whole time during launch, going around the system doing checks like flight controls, brakes, lights, etc."

Airman James is a tactical aircraft maintenance technician. He noted one of the major things that makes his job possible.

"Team cohesion is a must," he said. "Here, we have to make things happen together. It's something that a lot of people in the world love to do," he expressed. "I get to be around these jets and see them fly and hear what they do up there. That just gives me a great deal of satisfaction, and it's just a great piece of machinery to work on."

According to Airman James, his job defines the Air Force's "bombs on target" phrase. "It really puts you right there in the center of the action."

"The whole aircraft maintenance unit knows we're the first F-15 fighter squadron to be based out of Afghanistan," Airman James said. "So this is our legacy, and we're trying to set the pace."



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