California Unit Flawlessly Soars Over the Hawaiian Skies

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jennifer M. Piggott
  • 144th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
More than 100 service members from the California Air National Guard's 144th Fighter Wing (FW) in Fresno recently deployed to participate in a total force exercise that involved 14 different countries from a remote location.

112 members and seven F-16 combat fighter aircraft from Fresno's 144th Fighter Wing deployed to Kona, Hawaii in support of the Navy's Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC). This was the first time fighter aircraft and support personnel have ever deployed and sustained continuous operations on the island of Hawaii.

RIMPAC is the Navy's version of the Air Force's Red Flag, which is a total force exercise and allows military members to train for combat operations in an exercise environment, while employing real combat operation scenarios.

"This was a superb deployment with exceptional leadership and execution," said General Gary North, Pacific Air Forces Commander. "I was especially impressed with the Fresno unit's bare base set-up and smooth flying operations," added General North.

The members of the 144th worked closely with local officials and airport authority in Kona, Hawaii prior to the deployment, since this was the first time ever for F-16s to take off and land out of the island.

"This was the first time in recent years that the 144th FW has deployed to a bare base with no existing military support. We spent over six months planning every aspect of this deployment to ensure total success. Throughout our planning and deployment we were able to demonstrate the professionalism of the men and women of the California Air National Guard, said Maj. Russ Piggott, Project Officer for the RIMPAC deployment.

This deployment allowed the Fresno unit's primary mission of air sovereignty alert, for the protection and defense of the skies of the southwestern U.S. to be utilized. In addition, participating in this exercise allowed the 144th FW to shine by flawlessly executing seven other missions, to include executing adversary air support, Offensive and Defensive Counter Air missions and leading several Large Force Exercises (LFEs) for the Navy's exercise. As adversary aircraft, playing the role of the enemy helped ensure the combat readiness of the other seven U.S. military components that participated in this exercise.

In total, 140 combat ready exercise missions were flown by the 144th over a period of three weeks, with 100% mission success.

"From the maintainers, to the support staff, to the pilots, this deployment is a shining example of a job well done by all participants," said Lt. Col. Scott Seyfarth. "This was a unique experience for me, seeing RIMPAC from the Air Force perspective, as I flew in RIMPAC when I was a junior officer in the Navy, flying the F-18. This joint exercise is a perfect example of our total force capabilities," added Lt. Col. Seyfarth.

Due to the overwhelming success of the Fresno units participation in this exercise, the 144th has been invited to deploy to Kona again for the next RIMPAC exercise in 2012.