by TSgt. Dan Heaton
127th Wing Public Affairs
Crew chiefs with the 127th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich, perform final checks for A-10 Thunderbolt Ii Aircraft of the 107th Fighter Squadron on Feb. 14, 2012. The A-10 Aircraft of the 107th fighter squadron recently returned from a 4-month deployment to Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rachel Barton) Hi-res
Note: Pictured in the foreground are A-10Cs 79-0193 and 196.
2/15/2012 - SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- The sound of freedom has returned in full force to the skies over southeastern Michigan.
The 107th Fighter Squadron has resumed a full, regular flying schedule this week at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, following a short stand-down period after a deployment to Afghanistan. The squadron, known as the "Red Devils," flies the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft.
"While I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of the 107th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron during our most recent deployment to Afghanistan, it is time now to focus on our future," said Lt. Col. Douglas Champagne, commander of the fighter squadron, which added the "expeditionary" to its unit name during the unit's forward deployment to Kandahar airbase in Afghanistan. "Our scorecard has been submitted and it speaks for itself."
The future is uncertain for the 107th Fighter Squadron, a unit which traces its history back to World War I. The Air Force's Fiscal Year 2013 budget plan calls for the elimination of the A-10 mission assigned to the Fighter Squadron - along with the 127th Operations Group and 127th Maintenance Group that support it - as part of a larger plan to reduce the number of aircraft and personnel in the service. That plan is being challenged by some members of Congress and by the adjutant general of Michigan, Maj. Gen. Gregory J. Vadnais.
In addition to the changes at Selfridge, the Air Force also said it will cancel a previously announced plan to locate a squadron of C-27 Spartan cargo aircraft to the Michigan Air National Guard base in Battle Creek. The changes at Selfridge and Battle Creek, together with ripple effect changes elsewhere in the state, means that the Michigan Air National Guard stands to lose roughly a quarter of its entire force, roughly 673 positions. Vadnais pointed out that those cuts to Michigan are disproportionate to those being suffered by other states and are being made in a state where the total amount of Dept. of Defense payroll spending per capita already ranks dead last among the 50 states.
Even as the future of the A-10 and the eventual shape and size of the Michigan Air National Guard is debated, Champagne said the Airmen at Selfridge are committed to ensuring that they maintain a high degree of readiness.
"It is imperative that we don't lose focus on what lies ahead of us," Champagne said. "Our country faces turbulent times with fiscal difficulties and uncertainty around every corner. We, in the Air National Guard, remain committed to giving the American public exactly what they deserve -- the most bang for their buck. The ANG costs less, we do more and we are keenly focused on being ready for our next call, whatever that call may be."
During the 4-month deployment, the squadron recorded approximately 8,300 flight hours in roughly 2,000 sorties, or flight missions. Approximately 325 Airmen from the 127th Operations Group and the 127th Maintenance Group at Selfridge participated in the deployment, returning home in January. All of the units are part of the 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard and are home-stationed at Selfridge. Most of the Airmen in the Wing are traditional members of the Air National Guard, meaning they generally perform their military duties one weekend a month and stand ready for additional duties and assignments, as needed. The Air National Guard as a whole provides about 21 percent of the total available manpower of the U.S. Air Force, while consuming about 11 percent of the Air Force's budget.
During the unit's deployment, the remaining A-10s and their pilots at Selfridge maintained a greatly reduced flying schedule. With the return of the full schedule, the unit's aircraft will be more frequent sights and sounds in the region again.
Though populated by many Airmen who have now served on multiple deployments in recent years, the 127th Wing follows a strict training cycle to ensure that it's Airmen live up to the unit's motto: "We Stand Ready."
"Through our recent deployment to Afghanistan and now resuming a full flying schedule here at Selfridge, our maintenance Airmen have proven that they take a back seat to no one," said Major Kurtis Ring, commander of the 127th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "Our organization includes Airman who have worked on multiple different types of air frames, and possess a skill level that simply cannot be matched anywhere in the world. We look forward to be able to continue to provide our skilled, motivated Airmen to meet the needs of our state and our nation."
The proposed Air Force budget also calls for an increase in the number of KC-135 Stratotankers assigned to Selfridge, rising from eight aircraft to 12.
No timeline for any of the proposed changes has been announced.
With approximately 1,700 Airmen assigned, the 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard is the host organization at Selfridge, flying the KC-135 Stratotanker, an aerial refueler, and the A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as the Warthog, which is an air-to-ground attack fighter. In addition to the Wing, Selfridge is home to numerous other military and federal agencies, which fly a variety of helicopters and small, light fixed-wing aircraft.
More information on the 127th Wing and Selfridge Air National Guard Base is available at www.127wg.ang.af.mil.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II from the 107th Fighter Squadron takes off from Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., Feb. 14, 2012. The A-10 Aircraft of the 107th fighter squadron recently returned from a 4-month deployment to Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rachel Barton) Hi-res
With the snow flying, Senior Airman Amanda Post makes a final check of a technical order shortly before an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft taxies to the runway for take off at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., Feb. 14, 2012. The aircraft's pilot is Lt. Col. Emmanuel Saridakis, a member of the 107th Fighter Squadron at Selfridge. Post is a crew chief assigned to the 127th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. The A-10s at Selfridge have resumed a regular local flying and training schedule, following the return of local Airmen from a deployment to Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt. Dan Heaton) Hi-res
Lt. Col. Emmanuel Saridakis runs through his pre-flight checklist after strapping into the cockpit of an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., Feb. 14, 2012. Saridakis is a pilot with the 107th Fighter Squadron. The A-10s at Selfridge have resumed a regular local flying and training schedule, following the return of local Airmen from a deployment to Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt. Dan Heaton) Hi-res
Note: Pictured is A-10C 79-0193. Crew inscription: Maj JASON DAVIS, TSgt DANNY SMITH. No ladder door art.
SSgt. Christopher Manley, a 127th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Crew Chief at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., performs pre-flight checks on an A-10 Thunderbolt II Aircraft, in full communication with the pilot prior to taxing for take-off, Feb 14, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rachel Barton) Hi-res
TSgt. John Adams, a 127th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Crew Chief at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., performs final checks on an A-10 Thunderbolt II Aircraft at the End of Runway, immediately prior to aircraft take-off on Feb. 14, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rachel Barton) Hi-res