The 148th Fighter Wing deploys to Nellis Air Force Base

Members of the 148th Fighter Wing meet for a predeployment meeting prior to outprocessing for their impending deployment to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. for a final two week conversion training mission.  The training during the deployment will be focused on the 148th's new mission--providing suppression of enemy air defense, and the destruction of enemy air defense.  (National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ralph J. Kapustka.)

Members of the 148th Fighter Wing meet for a predeployment meeting prior to outprocessing for their impending deployment to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. for a final two week conversion training mission. The training during the deployment will be focused on the 148th's new mission--providing suppression of enemy air defense, and the destruction of enemy air defense. (National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ralph J. Kapustka.)

Tech. Sgt. Angela O'Hara briefs members of the 148th Fighter Wing during an outprocessing briefing prior to deploying to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. for a final two week conversion training mission.  The 148th Fighter Wing is one of only two bases and the only Guard unit with the Block 50 F-16 to specialize in the suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) and destruction of enemy air defense (DEAD) mission.     (National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Brett R. Ewald.)

Tech. Sgt. Angela O'Hara briefs members of the 148th Fighter Wing during an outprocessing briefing prior to deploying to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. for a final two week conversion training mission. The 148th Fighter Wing is one of only two bases and the only Guard unit with the Block 50 F-16 to specialize in the suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) and destruction of enemy air defense (DEAD) mission. (National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Brett R. Ewald.)

DULUTH, Minn. -- The 148th Fighter Wing deployed more than 100 service members Oct. 14, 2011 to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. for a final-two week conversion training mission prior to Red Flag--a test in February 2012 that will confirm that the 148th is fully mission capable with the new Block 50 F-16s.

Lt. Col. Troy Zierden, 179th Fighter Squadron Director of Operations and Detachment Commander for the upcoming deployment, is very positive about the outcome of the training.

"We have not had a force that's been as ready and as knowledgeable as we currently have in the 12 years that I've been flying here," said Lt. Col. Zierden.

The objectives of the deployment are "to prepare for Red Flag--it's a graduation exercise for us prior to going mission ready in our new Block 50 aircraft. The conversion will be over shortly after Red Flag so we've got to be the best that we can. Doing this exercise at Nellis prepares us for that," said Zierden.

The training during the deployment is focused on the 148th's new mission--providing suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) and destruction of enemy air defense (DEAD), and fully understanding the Block 50 F-16. "It's a practice test," said Zierden.

Members of the 148th deployed to Nellis Air Force Base during the spring of 2011 as part of the conversion process. After learning the basics of SEAD and DEAD, the 148th has since deployed multiple times to practice with flight simulators, have flown simulated SEAD and DEAD missions locally for the past few months--and will continue to do so up until Red Flag, according to Zierden.

The 148th Fighter Wing is one of only two bases and the only Guard unit with the Block 50 F-16 to specialize in the SEAD and DEAD mission. "There aren't a lot of units that do SEAD and DEAD and because of that we're a specialized force that may be needed on a moment's notice," said Zierden.

Not only has the 148th been tasked with a new mission, it has simultaneously taken on a new aircraft--the Block 50 F-16, which presents a list of obstacles and difficulties to overcome.

"The new aircraft is one of the biggest challenges, because when you go from similar mission to similar mission with a new aircraft it's a challenge enough --because you've got a different engine, different avionics--when you hit this button it does different things than it used to in the old aircraft. That's challenge number one. The second challenge is the new aircraft with a completely brand new mission that we've never done, because that in and of itself would typically be enough of a challenge," said Zierden.

The previous deployment and subsequent weeks spent in flight simulators have paid dividends for the 148th during the conversion.

Zierden describes the 148th as a competent, ready force, working together to power through the conversion process.

Everyone has really done some unbelievable work to get these aircraft ready, to adjust to the new mission, to hit the books and learn what it takes to keep these aircraft flying and configured correctly. The whole force and the teamwork involved have been pretty inspiring," said Zierden.

"I see these guys doing what they're doing and it proves once again that the 148th can handle any challenge," said Zierden. "After the conversion is complete, its game on. "