2019: Year in Review

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jason Sanchez, 144th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
  • 144th Fighter Wing

During 2019, the 144th Fighter Wing continued to demonstrate that it is a premier fighter Wing by completing both its federal and state missions with overwhelming success.


The Wing participated in two major federal deployments. From March 11 to June 15, more than 225 144th FW Airmen and a dozen F-15C Eagles deployed as part of a Theater Security Package to the Indo-Pacific Command. While deployed there, the 144th FW simultaneously supported both the Korean Theater of Operations and the PACOM Theater of Operations. Additionally, the Wing participated in Exercise Diamond Storm from May 6-26, 2019. Diamond Storm is a multinational large force employment exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Air Force.


Over 120 Airmen from the 144th FW deployed to conduct overseas missions in seven countries for the U.S. African Command, the U.S. European Command, and the U.S. Central Command as part of the Reserve Component Period cycle. Even before everyone had returned from the TSP, the Wing had already begun the deployments for RCP2, and our Airmen have been recognized on numerous occasions for their superior work performance.


Even while conducting these demanding deployments, our Wing continued to maintain its alert air superiority mission and defense of the western United States.


As part of the State Partnership Program, the 144th FW hosted six Ukrainian pilots from Sept. 3 to Sept. 9, strengthening our interoperability with partner nations and our NATO allies. Each Ukrainian pilot was given a familiarization flight in the F-15 Eagle to experience U.S. Air Force flying procedures and techniques. It was the first time that the Wing was able to host the pilots as we continue to support Ukraine and their military infrastructure.


While the 2019 fire season was much less severe that previous years, our Airmen were ready to provide assistance. As part of our Defense Support to Civil Authorities mission, the 144th Civil Engineering Squadron quickly deployed a group of Airmen to set up camp for over 300 Guardsmen in Santa Rosa, California, who supported firefighter response efforts and assisted local law enforcement during the Kincade Fire in late October.


Both individual Airmen and offices were recognized for their outstanding performances. The 144th Airfield Management office won the 2019 Ronald B. McCarthy Airfield Management Facility of the Year Award for the Air National Guard. The Maintenance Squadrons were repeatedly recognized for their superior numbers and their ability to fix jets quickly. Airman 1st Class Kimberly Self, Comptroller Flight finance management specialist, was chosen as Airman of the Year for the California Air National Guard and went on to compete nationally. Tech Sgts. Matthew Steht and Cory Snyder, 144th Maintenance Group maintainers, were 2019 Spark Tank finalists and presented their idea for an adaptive basing platform to the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium. To top off the year, Tech Sgt. Moneshia Washington was selected as the ANG Recruiter of the Year for 2019.


Our members then paused to attend a memorial ceremony in Ukraine, honoring both U.S. Air Force Pilot Lt. Col. Seth Nehring and Ukrainian Pilot Col. Ivan Petrenko who were killed in a plane crash on Oct. 16, 2018. At the memorial, a monument was unveiled with both pilots’ names, which was built by the men and women of the Ukrainian Air Force to honor the fallen pilots.


This past year we also welcomed new leadership, including Col. Jeremiah Cruz, 144th Fighter Wing commander, Col. Christopher Austin 144th Fighter Wing vice commander, Col. Robert Swertfager, 144th Operations Group commander, Lt. Col. Christopher Ridlon, 144th Maintenance Group commander, Lt. Col. Russ Piggott, 194th Fighter Squadron commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Lorene Kitzmiller, 144th Fighter Wing command chief. These leaders are charged with creating a culture of mutual respect throughout the Wing in addition to leading their individual sections.


During the midpoint of the Unit Effectiveness Inspection, which took place Sept. 5-9, our Wing scored well in all four Major Graded Areas including, Executing the Mission, Managing Resources, Leading People and Improving the Unit. A smooth UEI cycle is expected as we continue conducting operations and addressing any deficiencies that are found.


The 144th FW showed its commitment to the community. We hosted and participated in many events to support our local community and Airmen. Community activities included participation in the annual Fresno Veterans Parade, the unveiling of the City of Fresno Veterans Memorial, local sporting event fly-overs, base tours, and Silent Sleigh, which is a holiday event for Central Valley children who are deaf or hard-of hearing. Our F-15C Eagles and Airmen also supported multiple airshows and provided military funeral honors.


Our outreach events this year included Central Valley Education Forum and a maintenance Job and Career Fair. For the Airmen of the wing, events included family day, a Halloween trunk or treat event, a children’s Christmas party, and the annual Airmen of the Year Banquet.


Among the most unique events, our Wing’s jets were featured in Marvel Studios’ movie, Captain Marvel. A group of Airmen were able to attend the March 4th Red Carpet movie premier in Hollywood, California, and a promotional event at Disney California Adventure Park. Our F-15 Eagles were also able to conduct a rare flyover over the Disney California Adventure Park.


As the state and federal missions pushed forward, the 144th Civil Engineering Squadron lead numerous construction projects throughout the year to include upgrading fencing, resurfacing floors, upgrading gate security, replacing roofing, and improving communication infrastructure along with the 144th Communications Flight.


2019 was a busy year with a high operations tempo. While the mission must always get done, Wing leadership has placed a renewed emphasis on taking care of our people. Our people, after all, are the ones who make the mission happen.