Not Your Average Test Drive
By Tech. Sgt. Scott G. Herrington, 148th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 22, 2011
DULUTH, Minn. -- On a subzero January morning, more than 100 members of the 148th Fighter Wing prepare to deploy to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Their mission is to put both the newly acquired Block 50 F-16 Fighting Falcons and the Airmen supporting them to the test as the Wing transitions from the Block 25 to the Block 50.
Morale is high as pre-deployment preparations are made--the anticipation of temperatures above zero while working outdoors is shared by all as the personnel deployment facility steadily fills.
"The deployment is a great training opportunity," said Chief Master Sgt. Marcia Dumancas, 148th Operations Airfield Manager. "We'll be working with maintenance and with our counterparts at Tyndall as well."
The deploying members will be participating in the air-to-air Weapons System Evaluation Program (WSEP) known as Combat Archer. Combat Archer exercises and evaluates the total air-to-air weapon systems capability of Air Force combat aircraft, giving pilots who normally fly with training weapons a chance to live-fire their weapons.
"It will be a great opportunity to test the Airmen and the aircraft," said 1st Lt. Grant Brown, a pilot with the 148th Fighter Wing. "We will be certifying the aircraft--making sure systems work correctly."
"It's a pretty big change in mission; we need to make sure our pilots have the training and experience necessary," said Capt. Nicholas Schultz, the troop commander for the deployment. "We're looking forward to dropping bombs and shooting missiles."
Live missile firing and heavyweight ordnance dropping not only benefits the pilots during their training, but the maintenance crews as well. In addition, this tests the serviceability of aircraft systems and U.S. Air Force munitions.
Airman 1st Class Cory Sundeen shares the group's general enthusiasm. "It's a few small changes, some good training," said Sundeen. "And, of course, some nice warm weather."