Sunday, July 19, 2009

The 355th Fighter Wing makes deployment history

by Doug Herndon
355th Fighter Wing History Office

7/17/2009 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Airmen from the 355th Fighter Wing made Air Force history last week by deploying the first A-10C aircraft and maintenance support elements to Afghanistan. The bulk of the deployment occurred Saturday with more than 100 personnel, primarily from the 355th Maintenance group departing on a chartered flight.

"They are motivated and ready to deploy," said Master Sgt. Jose Silva, first sergeant for the 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

The Airmen are expected to be gone for six months and return around the beginning of the new year.

Wing personnel are no strangers to Operation Enduring Freedom. Since the beginning of OEF in 2001, the wing's 354th FS "Bulldogs," maintenance and support personnel have deployed four times to Bagram Airfield. The current deployment comes at a time when the President has ordered an increase in the number of military forces in the region.

Along with the deployment notification, the 355th Maintenance Group was also tasked with two major projects: a precision engagement software upgrade, known as Suite 5, and attaching the Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods to the jets.

The Suite 5 upgrade, which required uploading the software on the jet's computer system, had to be tested before pilots could train on the new system. The new software, which enhances the display in the cockpit with a much clearer and sharper image, was loaded and made completely functional in less than 60 days.

Another combat milestone will be reached during this deployment as the Bulldogs become the first A-10C unit to utilize the Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod in combat. The Sniper ATP allows pilots to locate, identify and track targets on the battlefield. Once the pods were received through the 355th Logistic Readiness Squadron, maintainers, with the aid of Lockheed Martin representatives, prepared the pods for the installation process. After the final checks, the Bulldogs spent several months flying both day and night missions to train on the newly installed equipment.

"Our maintenance personnel worked twelve- to fourteen-hour days, to include weekends. They really burned the midnight oil to ensure these projects were completed," said Mr. Bruce Black, 355th MXG deputy commander.


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