Thursday, September 24, 2009

354th pilots surpass 1,000 A-10 flight hours Sept. 11

by Lt. Col. Andrew Kapusak
354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron

9/15/2009 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- September 11, 2001 will be remembered forever in American history and in the hearts of the American public.

This September 11 is even more memorable for Air Force Captains Andrew Wood and Douglas Witmer. Both captains are A-10 pilots with the 354th Fighter Squadron "Bulldogs" stationed at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.

Currently, both Airmen are deployed to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, for the second time in their careers fighting the Global War on Terror. On September 11, the Airmen flew a mission together supporting US ground forces and both reached a milestone of 1,000 flight hours in the A-10 on the same day.

Both pilots have flown the A-10 since 2005 and have amassed nearly half of their total A-10 time flying combat operations over Afghanistan.

"It's surreal reaching an aviation milestone like this on September 11th," said Captain Wood, "but it's more meaningful to fly this mission in Afghanistan, protecting US forces and taking the fight to the enemy."

Capt. Wood, 28, was reared by Bill and Cheryl Wood of Collierville, Tenn., and graduated from Germantown High school in 1999. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2003 and has flown the A-10 in Korea, Arizona, and Afghanistan.

The 354th Fighter Squadron Bulldogs flew about a dozen A-10C attack aircraft from their home station at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., here this July.

With approximately 200 maintenance personnel and almost 30 pilots, the Bulldogs will conduct 24-hour operations over the coming months in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Combined Joint Task-Force Afghanistan missions.

"Our squadron is excited to be back in Afghanistan supporting U.S. and coalition forces," said Captain Witmer about their current deployment. "As the ground forces provide security for the Afghan people, we stand watch over them to provide deterrence against attack and precise firepower if they are engaged by hostile forces. It's humbling to know that merely our presence overhead can prevent the enemy from attacking our soldiers. Every pilot in the squadron is ultimately prepared and 100 percent focused on protecting both our troops and the Afghan populous."

Captain Witmer, 32, son of Steve and Donna Witmer, grandson of Clarice Emanuel, was born and reared in Charleston, Ill. Captain Witmer graduated from Charleston High School in 1995 and from the University of Illinois in 2000 with a degree in Industrial Engineering.

Captain Witmer spent his first three years in the Air Force as a T-37 instructor pilot in Oklahoma before transitioning to the A-10 Thunderbolt, affectionately known to the pilots as the "Warthog."

The 354th Fighter Squadron has been deployed to Afghanistan three times since Sept. 11, 2001.

Captains Douglas Witmer (left) and Andrew Wood (right), 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 pilots, reached a milestone of 1,000 flight hours Sept. 11. Both are stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. and are deployed to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Combined Joint Task Force Afghanistan missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Joe Shetterly) Hi-res


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