Tuesday, September 21, 2010

476th Fighter Group prepares for first deployment

by Senior Airman Danielle Wolf
442nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

9/20/2010 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Twenty-five reservists from the wing's geographically-separated 476th Fighter Group at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., are scheduled to deploy in September along with their active-duty counterparts.

The Airmen, pilots and maintainers, will deploy to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom to provide close air support for U.S. and International Security Assistance Force troops on the ground.

"We've been effective in working with the active-duty squadron's commander to integrate into the line numbers our folks are filling," said Col. Gregory Eckfeld, 476th FG commander.

The 476th FG stood up as an associate unit Feb. 1, 2009. Since then, the group has worked side-by-side with active-duty Airmen from the 23rd Wing.

"(This deployment) will make our relationship with the active duty that much stronger," Colonel Eckfeld said. "It's clear that there are differences, but when we deploy together, we're wearing the same uniform and supporting the same mission.

Along with the desire for total force integration, Colonel Eckfeld said the deploying members will also bring a variety of experience to the unit's first large-scale combat deployment.

"All of our pilots are currently A-10C-model instructor pilots," he said. "A lot of our pilots will be supervisors and lead missions during the deployment. They are all field-grade officers with thousands of hours of experience."

Maj. Dennis Ott, 76th Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, will be part of the deployment package.

"We have a great working relationship with the active duty," he said. "And, we should have a pretty good setup. Other units, who have gone before us, should have worked out many of the kinks, allowing us to be more mission-effective."

Senior Master Sgt. Ron Clark is an air reserve technician with the 476th Maintenance Squadron and will be deploying with the group.

Sergeant Clark, who deployed with the 442nd Maintenance Group to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan in 2008, will deploy with the 476th FG as the specialist flight chief.

"(The 476th) has grown tremendously over the past year and a half, and the relationship with our active-duty counterparts has been pretty smooth," he said. "We have also shown that we can be put into leadership positions and be as effective as the active-duty Airmen."


Members of the 476th FG spent several unit training assemblies preparing for the deployment, Colonel Eckfeld said.

"Our Airmen worked side-by-side with unit deployment managers and training managers to prepare for this," he said. "Our traditional reservists did focus-training in August to ensure a lot of the air expeditionary force training was met, including small-arms and chemical-warfare training. Active duty supported that training on the August drill and helped us finish up any loose ends."

In addition to the active-duty counterpart at Moody AFB, Colonel Eckfeld said the group's parent unit, the 442nd FW, provided vast support. He said Senior Master Sgt. Rodney Kennedy and Tech. Sgt. Shannon Kennedy, 442nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, have traveled to the separated unit to assist with deployment readiness and orders, as well as Senior Master Sgt. Shevaun McRoberts, also from the 442nd LRS, who assisted with clothing requirements for the deployment.

"(Chief Master Sgt. Allan Sturges, 442nd FW command chief) came down here on the August drill to give us insight on some areas of deployment we hadn't thought of," Colonel Eckfeld said. "He gave us some good ideas to help our deployers' families."

Chief Master Sgt. Tim Storms, formerly the 442nd Maintenance Squadron's first sergeant, is now part of the 476th FG as a traditional reservist. Colonel Eckfeld said the chief has been instrumental in ensuring the group had the funding to "go to war."


Of approximately 240 Airmen in the 476th FG, Colonel Eckfeld said more than 10 percent of the group volunteered for the deployment.

"We had additional volunteers, but were only able to fill the slots based on the active duty's requests," he said. "We have a good cadre to support these folks as well.

"We couldn't have prepared for this deployment without support from the 442nd FW and the 23rd Wing here at Moody," the colonel said. "A lot of people from the 476th will be picking up the load while the deployers are gone. My hat is off to the folks who have taken on additional manning - this is really a team effort."


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