148th Fighter Wing deploys to support Air Force Weapons School

DULUTH, Minn. -- On Oct. 3, 2009, more than 100 members of the 148th Fighter Wing, Minnesota Air National Guard said goodbye to wind, rain and 40 degree weather in exchange for sun, fun and 70 degrees. Deployers left Duluth, Minn. via military aircraft and landed at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. to offer support to the United States Air Force Weapons School.
Known as the "Home of the Fighter Pilot," Nellis, located near Las Vegas, is the pinnacle of advanced air combat aviation training. The mission is to teach graduate-level instructor courses that provide the world's most advanced training in weapons and tactics employment to produce the best Weapons School Officers the Air Force has to offer. 

"It's an extremely intense program," said Lt. Col. Reed Bowman, pilot, 148th Fighter Wing. "Getting into the school itself is extremely competitive; pilots have to fight for slots. And when they get there, they better be ready to train." 

The "Top Gun" style school is six months long, with about 100 students in each class. Two classes are held each year. The Guard typically gets about one or two student slots per year. The 148th will be offering school support, flying as the opposing force with the students to give more training opportunities with various types of aircraft. The students fly either the F-22 or the F-15, units like the 148th are invited to participate in various phases of the course to allow the students to fly missions against aircraft like the F-16. 

"The school sends out requests when they need units to come fly," said Bowman. "We bring our jets, our pilots and our ground crew. They roll out the red carpet for us and we'll act as the "bad guys" of the fight." And while the focus of the two week deployment will be to help train the students, the 148th will also be able to get some training time in as well.
"We don't often get to fly with or against F-22s," said Bowman. "We really don't stand a chance in the fight with all that the F-22 has to offer, but it's great training for them and for us." 

For Lt. Col. Christopher Blomquist, 148th pilot and 2004 weapons school graduate, the deployment is more than a training opportunity; it's also a chance to reconnect. "It's going to be a lot less stressful for me this time around," said Blomquist. "It'll be fun to play the opposite role and see it from this side. And hopefully I'll see some old faces and actually be able to enjoy it."