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Barnes closer to mission ready status

Date: 8/25/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- A two-week training exercise, which began last Saturday in Nevada, will bring Barnes Air National Guard Base closer to its new Air Sovereignty Alert mission.

Exercise RED FLAG -- a mammoth multi-unit Air Force Fighter training exercise at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada -- will incorporate over 150 Barnes personnel along with members of 10 domestic flying units and personnel from the Italian Air Force and the United Arab Emirates. The 76 participating aircrafts and personnel will be tested on combat readiness through Sept. 4.

"This exercise is a huge milestone as we work toward beginning the Air Sovereignty Alert mission at Barnes [in] early 2010," Col. Robert Brooks Jr., commander of the 104th Fighter Wing, said. "We will be given an opportunity to put all our training into action with realistic combat training scenarios. Our folks have done an outstanding job converting from the A-10 to the F-15 and this deployment will cement that transition."

Wing Executive Staff Officer for the 104th Capt. Matthew Mutti explained that the sheer magnitude of the exercise does not permit the training to take place at Barnes. "The training areas in Nevada are very expansive and allow for very large scale exercise engagements," he added.

The Test and Training Range at Nellis Air Force Base allows the exercise to take place throughout 15,000 square miles of airspace and 4,700 square miles of restricted land. "More than 75 percent of all live munitions used by the Air Force for training are dropped on the Nevada Test and Training Range," according to information released by the Nellis Air Force Base.

Mutti noted that the 104th Fighter Wing has been in an official conversion status from the A-10s to the F-15s since 2007, as mandated by the Base Realignment and Closure Committee's decision in 2005. He added that because of the conversion status, the unit has been unable to participate in combat training prior to Exercise RED FLAG.

Conversion will conclude next year will the inception of the Air Sovereignty Alert mission -- homeland defense of the Northeast.