WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. – From exercising air power in South America to conducting hurricane evacuations and deploying short notice to support a high-priority exercise, Airmen assigned to the South Carolina Air National Guard’s 169th Fighter Wing are demonstrating they are agile, reliable and mission ready.
Within the past 60 days, Airmen assigned to the 169th Fighter Wing have executed three distinctly different and complex missions at the request of state and federal stakeholders.
“The agility and accessibility displayed by our Airmen to support these missions has been outstanding”, said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Akshai Gandhi, chief of staff – air, Joint Forces Headquarters South Carolina. “Sometimes, tasking Guard units is perceived as too hard because they are a part-time, military augmentee force. During the last 60 days, I have seen traditional Air Guard professionals respond to taskings within days, hours in some instances. Their flexibility and dedication to the mission and their Swamp Fox family is a credit to their leadership and the support of their families and employers.”
On Aug. 26, after months of planning and coordination, 100 Airmen and eight F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 52 fighter jets from the South Carolina Air National Guard’s 169th Fighter Wing departed for Barranquilla, Colombia, for a two-week international military exercise. The exercise, part of the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program, focused on strengthening interoperability between the U.S. and Colombian air forces as allies under NATO standards.
Within 10 days of returning to South Carolina, many of the same Airmen were called to their temporary flight line at nearby Columbia Metropolitan Airport, West Columbia, to conduct emergency evacuation protocols ahead of the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Ian.
The South Carolina Air National Guard is operating out of the Columbia Metropolitan Airport while the main runway at McEntire Joint National Guard Base is resurfaced.
Within 24 hours, nine F-16 fighter jets were relocated to Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan, where they remained for four days until it was safe to return.
“Our Airmen routinely support exercises, the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program with the Republic of Colombia and deploy as an augmentee force when the need arises,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Quaid Quadri, 169th Fighter Wing commander. “What many of them are not used to, and what this team has proven is when a short-notice tasking drops, the Airmen of the 169th Fighter Wing are available, ready and accessible.”
As the October drill weekend approached, another support request was received. Without hesitation and with only seven days’ notice, six aircraft and more than 60 Airmen were en route to support a high-priority exercise in the western United States. The 169th Fighter Wing did not disappoint: The maintenance group achieved 100% production, resulting in all six jets flying during the mission.
“I am not surprised by the success of our Airmen. Their professionalism, expertise and commitment to the mission is on display every day,” said Quadri.