Eagles return home: 194th EFS completes European deployment

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The 194th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron recently completed its six-month theater security package deployment to Europe.

The squadron’s 12 F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft and more than 300 California Air National Guard Airmen assigned to the 144th Fighter Wing deployed from Fresno Air National Guard Base, California, as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Operation Atlantic Resolve is a demonstration of U.S. European Command and United States Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa's continued commitment to the collective security of NATO and dedication to the enduring peace and stability in the region.

“The TSP mission was critical in demonstrating to our allies in Eastern Europe that the United States is a reliable NATO member and dedicated to stability in the region,” said California ANG Lt. Col. Robert Swertfager, 194th EFS commander.


The squadron initially deployed alongside the 131st EFS, originally from the Massachusetts ANG 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes ANGB, Massachusetts, in March 2016.  Throughout their deployment, both ANG units received continued logistical and mission support backing through the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

The 194th EFS participated with their Bay State counterparts during Frisian Flag 2016 at Leeuwarden Air Base, Netherlands, and Icelandic Air Policing at Keflavik International Airport, Iceland.


Swertfager said the most challenging aspect of the deployment centered on concurrently running flying operations at both a main base of operations and smaller micro-deployments in other countries.


The squadron participated in various exercises from their main operating base at Campia Turzii, Romania, as well as joint air policing at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, which represented the first joint NATO operations of its kind in that country.


The end result culminated in more than 500 flying sorties while integrating with pilots from nine countries including Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Luxembourg, Norway, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom.


“Our EFS met these challenges head-on,” said “We found success in all of them through solid planning, communication and focus on the mission.” 


Swertfager also said the deployment provided multiple opportunities for his Airmen to integrate with allied nations during complex flying scenarios. 


“This training is invaluable to our pilots,” he said. “It is not every day that we can merge with MiG-29s, MiG-21s, Typhoons and Gripens.”


Yet Swertfager cited seeing the squadron accomplish 100 percent of USAFE’s tasking as the most rewarding aspect of the deployment.


“We safely deployed, executed the mission in Eastern Europe then redeployed 12 F-15Cs and 297 Airmen back home,” he said. “This was the first major deployment for the 194th FS and 144th FW since converting from the F-16 to the F-15C Eagle and our successful deployment is a milestone for the unit.”