Friday, August 19, 2011

917th FG prepares for first combat deployment (updated version)

Members of the 917th Fighter Group from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., pose for a group photo at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Aug. 5, 2011. Approximately 100 members of the 917th FG deployed to Alaska after converting to a combat squadron from a training unit to prepare for an upcoming Air and Space Expeditionary rotation. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Jessica D'Aurizio)

by SMSgt. Jessica D'Aurizio
307th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

8/17/2011 - Barksdale AFB, LA. -- The 917th Fighter Group from Barksdale AFB, La., deployed to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska the end of July and first part of August 2011 to prepare for an upcoming Air and Space Expeditionary rotation.

"This is the scrimmage before the game," said Lt. Col. Robert Hetland, who is an A-10 Weapons Officer and the project officer for Operation Distant Frontier. "The 47th Fighter Squadron which falls under the 917th FG has been a training squadron for over 15 years, and this deployment offers the opportunity for the Airmen to foster tactical skills and get in the mindset that will help them downrange."

Lt. Col. James Travis, the deployment commander agreed that this training was just what the squadron needed prior to their AEF rotation. The Alaska Range offers a different terrain for the pilots to train in and also allows them to employ a variety of weapons for training. This training included Laser Guided Bombs, Joint Direct Attack Munitions, Mark 82s and 30mm rounds.

"We have mountains and hills at the Alaska range that offer a great simulation for our upcoming AEF," said Hetland. In addition to the terrain and threat conditions they are able to work with Joint Tactical Air Controllers. These controllers will be telling them where to put the weapons once forward deployed.

"We're in Alaska blocking, tackling, and performing drills to perfect our abilities," said Hetland. "This is what it is all about." The 917th FG moved aircraft, approximately 150 personnel and multiple tons of equipment to simulate a real world deployment.

Senior Master Sgt. Michael Thornton, the maintenance project officer for Operation Distant Frontier said," This operation was a test of our skills...without having the support we have become accustom to at home station. We have sharpened our ability relying on technical data and system knowledge while providing first class aircraft to meet all mission requirements. We did have a few challenges but we have stepped up for the challenge." The Distant Thunder deployment afforded the Airmen of the 917th Fighter Group an opportunity to train in conditions similar to those in the current area of responsibility.

"The opportunity to train with live munitions in mountainous terrain under challenging weather conditions was invaluable to our pilots for their AEF spin up," said Colonel John Breazeale, the 917th FG commander. "The total team effort would not have been possible without the incredible efforts of our maintenance and support team. I couldn't be prouder of our Airmen."


Please note: This updated version, released on 307th Bomb Wing's public website, includes 17 new photos! More photos will be uploaded soon.

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