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104th Fighter Wing protects Western Massachusetts

Date: 5/24/2013

By Carley Dangona

WESTFIELD — The 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base is well prepared to defend its Northeast territory, from Maine to New Jersey, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

On May 16, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray was on hand to commend the BarnesStormers for achieving the highest grade possible from NORAD following a no-notice Alert Force Evaluation in April.

During the evaluation, a target of interest is given to the base for it to intercept, investigate and identify. As the team responds, NORAD monitors every aspect of the exercise. NORAD also inspects aircraft to ensure all safety standards are being adhered to. In total, NORAD spent three days at Barnes to complete the evaluation, Col. James Keefe, commander of the 104th, explained.

Murray, who chairs the Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force, said, "The 104th has long been recognized on local, state and national levels for its many accomplishments both at home and overseas. Today, on behalf of our governor, Deval Patrick, our commander in chief, I commend you for your dedication to excellence and praise you for your recent successes."

He continued, "Last month, NORAD arrived here unannounced to test the 104th Fighter Wing's ability to defend the Northeast airspace — F15s were scrambled, airmen stepped up and the no-notice Alert Force Evaluation was completed and scored with the highest possible grade."

Murray added, "The inspection report applauded the command and control section for its enhanced situational awareness and the maintenance section for its meticulously maintained aircraft. In addition, the alert pilots were noted as having executed their procedures perfectly while the security forces squadron was lauded for its responsiveness during the alert scramble."

Murray also said, "I know all of us in the Northeast feel well-protected because of your collective efforts." He awarded the 104th with a Governor's Citation for its accomplishments.

Keefe said, "The men and women of the 104th Fighter Wing and our partners in the 226 Division Army National Guard Aviation Support Battalion work tirelessly every day to support and defend both the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."

He added, "I personally want to thank the lieutenant governor for his constant and consistent attention to ensuring that our Massachusetts military components remain relevant in today's ever-changing military landscape."

Keefe explained to Reminder Publications that this is the second consecutive time the 104th has earned the highest grade. He said that doing so is "not easily replicable" and that the level of quality strengthens the value of the base and its longevity.

Keefe added that the achievement is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the people of the 104th Fighter Wing.

"If you're going to do it, you might as well do it right," he said.