By 2nd Lt. Jodi L. Kiminski, 148FW/PA
/ Published August 05, 2009
DULUTH, Minn. -- Dr. Thomas Kennedy, Vice President of the Raytheon Company along with General Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, presented the Raytheon Trophy to the 179th Fighter Squadron saying, "It is an honor and a privilege to recognize such a fine unit."
The 179th Fighter Squadron proved they are the best in air superiority in the U.S. Air Force when officials announced the winner of the 2008 Raytheon Trophy. The 179th Fighter Squadron is attached to the 148th Fighter Wing; a Minnesota-based Air National Guard wing. The award was presented during a ceremony in Duluth, Minn. on Friday, July 31, 2009.
"We have the best National Guard in the United States of America," said Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, "and we have the data and the awards to prove it."
Started in 1953 by Hughes Aircraft Company, the trophy is given annually to the top air-superiority or air-defense squadron in the Air Force. The honor marks only the fourth time an Air National Guard unit received the award and only the second F-16 unit.
"Whether it is your dream, or your mission...it matters to this state, to this country and to the entire Air Force and we are profoundly grateful to you," said Gov. Pawlenty. "You stand for values, courage, and patriotism and we are so proud."
"It's awesome for the Bulldogs to get recognition for the hard work they did in 2008," said Lt. Col. Eric Chandler, 179th Fighter Squadron Commander. "All our people make it look easy, but it isn't. They deserve this kind of award."
Units are graded on air defense and air superiority mission performance, operational mission performance, organizational readiness inspection results, training exercise participation, unit achievements and awards, individual achievements and awards and unit incentive programs.
"This award is especially important to our wing, because it validates the intense effort we have put forth over the last several years: the many times we have answered calls...packed up and deployed on short notice; and accomplished the mission in a professional, efficient manner," said Col. Frank Stokes, 148th Fighter Wing Commander. "We have done all this without complaining, and in a manner that often left the operation in better shape than when we came. The Bulldogs should feel good that our efforts were not lost on our nation's leadership."
During fiscal year 2008, the unit received an "Excellent" Operational Readiness Inspection rating and "Mission Ready" Alert Force Evaluation rating. Throughout the year, the unit deployed numerous times in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and NOBLE EAGLE. After the Air Force grounded its F-15C Eagle fleet in November 2007, the 148th quickly deployed six F-16s with Operations and Maintenance personnel to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, to be on air sovereignty alert for nearly three months. A week after returning from Hickam, the unit deployed to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, to perform alert for another five weeks. While at Elmendorf, the 148th was the first F-16 unit to intercept a Russian "Bear" bomber off the coast of Alaska. The unit finished the year with a deployment to Joint Base Balad, Iraq for a third time since 2005.
In addition to the deployments, the 148th performed year-round 24/7 Alert from the Duluth base, adding additional Alert support in Minneapolis during the Republican National Convention where they executed two active scrambles, three air patrols and prosecuted five temporary flight restriction violations. Overall, the unit flew 2,050 sorties for a total of 3,351 hours with zero flying mishaps.
"Air superiority is only one of our tasked missions," said Col. Howard Hayes, 148th Operations Commander. "We are a general purpose Air Defense unit, we drop bombs. We are honored to be selected from a group of air-to-air units...it shows we have very talented and dedicated people. To be highlighted like this is an intense honor for everyone."
Also on hand to praise the unit were U.S. Senators Amy Klobucher and Al Franken, Major General Larry Shellito - Adjutant General of the State of Minnesota, and Duluth Mayor Don Ness. While the evening focused on what has been accomplished by the unit, words were also spoken about the future.
"General McKinley, you know about the need of this country and this military," said Gov. Pawlenty. "I don't think it's too much to ask the Air Force to give back to a unit that gives so much."
"I assure you," said Gen. McKinley, "that your congressional delegates and I will continue to work to make sure this unit is recognized and rewarded."