MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
Approximately 300 Airmen and a contingent of F-16CJ Fighting Falcon aircraft from the South Carolina Air National Guard’s 169th Fighter Wing have returned home after a successful three month deployment to Prince Sultan Air Base (PSAB), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
While deployed to PSAB, the 169th Fighter Wing’s “Swamp Foxes” were attached to the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing and supported U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) by boosting defensive capabilities against potential threats in the region. During this expeditionary force rotation, the South Carolina Air National Guard (SCANG) also simultaneously supported three major operations including Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation Spartan Shield, and Operation Freedom Sentinel. This was the SCANG’s largest deployment since the summer of 2018 when they supported an Air Expeditionary Force rotation to Kuwait.
This deployment racked up a number of firsts exemplifying the unit’s “Semper Primus” motto. “We were the first F-16CM unit to deploy with the new APG-83 radar,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Shaun Bowes, 157th Fighter Squadron commander. “We were also the first to conduct integrated combat turns where our maintainers simultaneously loaded our aircraft with live weapons while the engines were still running. This happened at another base 300 miles away and those same weapons were then delivered while conducting an exercise with the U.S. Navy in the Arabian Gulf. We additionally ground refueled F-16s by transferring fuel from a U.S. Marine Corps C-130, completing the first Aircraft to Aircraft Refueling (A2AR) operation in the combat theater,” Bowes said.
Other stats include more than 30,000 pounds of munitions expended and more than 4,000 hours flown on over 800 missions. “The missions are long and often don’t result in a lot of excitement, but they are vitally important to the CENTCOM mission. Our presence served as a strategic reminder to our adversaries in the region that the U.S. is committed to ensuring stability in the Middle East,” said Bowes.
“Since Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and that fateful day of September 11, 2001, Airmen of the SCANG and the 169th Fighter Wing have regularly deployed and taken the fight to terrorist that threaten the safety and security of the entire world while simultaneously providing 24/7 homeland defense security,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Akshai Gandhi, 169th Fighter Wing commander. “This deployment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia demonstrated the United States’ resolve to project combat power and help bolster defensive capabilities against potential threats in the region. We ask much of our Swamp Fox Team, their families, employers, and communities and I am truly humbled by their sustained support. Their sacrifices enable us to vigilantly ensure the sovereignty of our great country.”