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144th Fighter Wing Home after Successful Combat Archer

Tech. Sgt. Tony Baezramos, a 144th Fighter Wing structural technician, inspects his tools in preparation for Combat Archer October 6, 2012. Combat Archer is a two-week training and evaluation program for ground crews to test their maintenance systems and processes while loading live munitions on as well as critical live training for the pilots to employ air-to-air missiles against remotely piloted target drones in flight. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

Tech. Sgt. Tony Baezramos, a 144th Fighter Wing structural technician, inspects his tools in preparation for Combat Archer October 6, 2012. Combat Archer is a two-week training and evaluation program for ground crews to test their maintenance systems and processes while loading live munitions on as well as critical live training for the pilots to employ air-to-air missiles against remotely piloted target drones in flight. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

Master Sgt. Leslie Sundstrom, a 144th Fighter Wing egress craftsman, and Staff Sgt. Paul Kaupanger, a 144th Fighter Wing Hydraulics technician, clean and organize tools in preparation for the Combat Archer exercise October 6, 2012. Combat Archer is a two-week training and evaluation program for ground crews to test their maintenance systems and processes while loading live munitions on as well as critical live training for the pilots to employ air-to-air missiles against remotely piloted target drones in flight. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

Master Sgt. Leslie Sundstrom, a 144th Fighter Wing egress craftsman, and Staff Sgt. Paul Kaupanger, a 144th Fighter Wing Hydraulics technician, clean and organize tools in preparation for the Combat Archer exercise October 6, 2012. Combat Archer is a two-week training and evaluation program for ground crews to test their maintenance systems and processes while loading live munitions on as well as critical live training for the pilots to employ air-to-air missiles against remotely piloted target drones in flight. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

Master Sgt. Paul Schroder, a crew chief with the 144th Fighter wing, reads technical orders from his maintenance laptop while working on an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., October 9, 2012. The 194th Fighter Squadron and associated maintenance personnel are participating in a two-week air-to-air combat evaluation called Combat Archer. Combat Archer is an air-to-air weapons system evaluation program, also known as WSEP designed to evaluate air-to-air weapons from buildup and loading, to employment. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

Master Sgt. Paul Schroder, a crew chief with the 144th Fighter wing, reads technical orders from his maintenance laptop while working on an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., October 9, 2012. The 194th Fighter Squadron and associated maintenance personnel are participating in a two-week air-to-air combat evaluation called Combat Archer. Combat Archer is an air-to-air weapons system evaluation program, also known as WSEP designed to evaluate air-to-air weapons from buildup and loading, to employment. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

F-16C Fighting Falcons from the 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard Fresno sit on the ramp at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. as they participate in Combat Archer October 9, 2012. Combat Archer allows pilots and maintainers valuable training in the employment of live air-to-air munitions and tests the capabilities of the weapon systems. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

F-16C Fighting Falcons from the 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard Fresno sit on the ramp at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. as they participate in Combat Archer October 9, 2012. Combat Archer allows pilots and maintainers valuable training in the employment of live air-to-air munitions and tests the capabilities of the weapon systems. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

An E-9A prepares to take off from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. during a Combat Archer training exercise October 10, 2012. The E-9 is used as a surveillance platform over the Gulf of Mexico waters providing telemetry and radio relays in support of air-to-air weapons systems evaluations. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

An E-9A prepares to take off from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. during a Combat Archer training exercise October 10, 2012. The E-9 is used as a surveillance platform over the Gulf of Mexico waters providing telemetry and radio relays in support of air-to-air weapons systems evaluations. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

A 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard, F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. October 10, 2012. The unit is in Florida to participate in Combat Archer for a two week deployment. The exercise allows pilots and crew of the unit to train and be evaluated with live munitions. (Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

A 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard, F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. October 10, 2012. The unit is in Florida to participate in Combat Archer for a two week deployment. The exercise allows pilots and crew of the unit to train and be evaluated with live munitions. (Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

A 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard, F-16 aircraft lands at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. October 10, 2012. The unit is in Florida to participate in Combat Archer for a two week deployment. The exercise allows pilots and crew of the unit to train and be evaluated with live munitions. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

A 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard, F-16 aircraft lands at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. October 10, 2012. The unit is in Florida to participate in Combat Archer for a two week deployment. The exercise allows pilots and crew of the unit to train and be evaluated with live munitions. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

F-16C Fighting Falcons from the 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard Fresno, sit on the Flight line at Tyndall AFB, Florida before taking part in Combat Archer October 9, 2012. Combat Archer is an air-to-air weapons system evaluation program, also known as WSEP designed to evaluate air-to-air weapons from buildup and loading, to employment.( Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

F-16C Fighting Falcons from the 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard Fresno, sit on the Flight line at Tyndall AFB, Florida before taking part in Combat Archer October 9, 2012. Combat Archer is an air-to-air weapons system evaluation program, also known as WSEP designed to evaluate air-to-air weapons from buildup and loading, to employment.( Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

F-16C Fighting Falcons from the 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard Fresno, on the flight line at Tyndall AFB, Florida before participateing in Combat Archer, October 9, 2012.( Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

F-16C Fighting Falcons from the 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard Fresno, on the flight line at Tyndall AFB, Florida before participateing in Combat Archer, October 9, 2012.( Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

Airmen from the 144th Fighter Wing prep F-16C Fighting Falcon's for an early morning training mission during Combat Archer, a weapon systems academics exercise, at Tyndall AFB, Florida, October 9, 2012.
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Airmen from the 144th Fighter Wing prep F-16C Fighting Falcon's for an early morning training mission during Combat Archer, a weapon systems academics exercise, at Tyndall AFB, Florida, October 9, 2012.

Airmen from the 144th Fighter Wing prep an F-16C Fighting Falcon's for an early morning training mission during Combat Archer, a weapon systems academics exercise, at Tyndall AFB, Florida, October 9, 2012.( Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)
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Airmen from the 144th Fighter Wing prep an F-16C Fighting Falcon's for an early morning training mission during Combat Archer, a weapon systems academics exercise, at Tyndall AFB, Florida, October 9, 2012.( Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

Airmen from the 144th Fighter Wing prep an F-16C Fighting Falcon's for an early morning training mission during Combat Archer, a weapon systems academics exercise, at Tyndall AFB, Florida, October 9, 2012.( Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)
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Airmen from the 144th Fighter Wing prep an F-16C Fighting Falcon's for an early morning training mission during Combat Archer, a weapon systems academics exercise, at Tyndall AFB, Florida, October 9, 2012.( Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

Tyndall AFB -- More than 100 members of the 144th Fighter Wing along with eight of the Wing's F-16C Fighting Falcon aircraft returned to their home station, California Air National Guard Base in Fresno, today after participating in the Combat Archer exercise Oct. 5-20.

An air-to-air weapons system evaluation program conducted by the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group (WEG), Combat Archer tested the complete air-to-air weapon system capabilities of the F-16C Fighting Falcon and evaluated Airmen on everything from flight operations to maintenance.

"Combat Archer is an extremely valuable exercise that we attempt to participate in every couple of years," said Col. Reed Drake, 144th Operations Group commander. "Combat Archer tests both men and machines; the 144th FW's success during this evaluation was a direct result of everyone working together as one team.

"It takes from the youngest Airman to the most experienced pilot working in concert to ensure success in both training and combat," he added.

Over the course of the two-week exercise, pilots from the Wing's 194th Fighter Squadron shot eight AIM-9M Sidewinder missiles, six AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range, Air-to-Air Missiles and more than 6,000 rounds from a 20 mm multi-barrel cannon.

"Since our air crews rarely get the opportunity to engage in actual air-to-air combat, this is a truly unique opportunity for us," said Lt. Col. Dodd Wamberg, 194th Fighter Squadron commander. "During our standard training flights at home station, we go through all the steps to lock on and fire a missile, except actually firing one, so there is no way to clearly validate whether the shot would have hit the target other than what qualifies as a valid simulation."

The training not only benefited the air crews but the maintainers as well.

"This exercise is a great opportunity for us, as maintainers and weapons load crew personnel, to get real world practice for eventual combat situations," said Maj. Robert Gellner, commander of the 144th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "It also allows our members who haven't loaded live munitions before the chance to get a better understanding of what loading live missiles involves."

Out of 196 individual evaluations, the WEG found no discrepancies, Gellner said.

"We scored 100 percent in live fire tests as well as performing quality and timely maintenance," he said.

Not only did Combat Archer provide air crews with confidence loading and firing live missiles, but it also gave Air Force weapons system managers a forum to verify system performance, capabilities and limitations.

"This was my first time loading live missiles. We would come in at 3 a.m. to accept missiles and get everything loaded and ready for the air crew," said Airman 1st Class David Villarreal, a weapons load crew member with the 144th. "It was a great experience. ... The best part is seeing the rails on the F-16 comeback empty!"


"We train for combat every day, so safety and procedures do not change regardless of inert or live munitions," said Chief Master Sgt. Anne Rice, 144th FW Weapons Manager. "The exercise is extremely valuable because we can identify problems or deficiencies in performance and handling before we are in a serious combat situation."

"It's great for our Airmen to put their skills and training to the test," added Chief Rice, "they have performed exceptionally well!"

In addition to Combat Archer, the Wing took part in Combat Shield, which tested the radar and jamming equipment on the Fighting Falcons to ensure they are within Air Force standards.

"Overall the exercise was a huge success. The 144th FW clearly demonstrated our readiness and capability to provide combat power to the combatant commander on demand," said Col. Clay Garrison, 144th Fighter Wing vice commander. "The men and women of the Wing can be very proud of their performance on this deployment!"