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Barnes performs new mission with vigor, excellence

Date: 4/14/2010

April 14, 2010.

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- The 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base has performed its new mission with vigor and excellence.

The 104th has been standing alert, protecting the northeast skies 24-7 since taking on the Air Sovereignty Alert Mission Feb. 15. Personnel were called to action for the first time on April 2 "in support of a civilian aircraft in distress," according to Maj. Matthew Mutti, wing executive staff officer for the 104th.

"Our pilots escorted the aircraft down, safely," he said of the scramble, adding, "Also we just completed a no-notice alert force evaluation inspection and passed with high marks."

The wing officially opened its Air Sovereignty Alert facility on April 10, with the support of local politicians and members of the guard.

"This ribbon cutting event signifies the completion of nearly five years of construction associated with the new mission," Col. Robert T. Brooks, 104th Fighter Wing Commander, said. "In total, these projects represent nearly $30 million in economic stimulus into the Westfield region."

The 104th has spent the past three years converting from its previous mission involving the A-10 to the F-15 aircraft, as mandated by the Base Realignment and Closure Committees in 2005. The conversion required $45 million in new facilities and an increase of 300 personnel.

"Today's ceremony marks a significant milestone in the history of the 104th Fighter Wing," Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Carter, adjutant general for Massachusetts, said. "The men and women of this storied Fighter Wing now have facilities equal to the serious task they have been given: to be guardians of the air space of our nation from all airborne threat.

"I know the 104th Barnstormers will meet this mission as they have all others: with the fidelity and courage that characterizes the United States Air Force," he continued. "Further, this ceremony is an honor of the members of the Westfield community. They are our neighbors, friends and strongest supporters. On behalf of all Massachusetts National Guard Members, I thank them."