Bulldogs Deploy to Support Operation Iraqi Freedom

F-16C Fighting Falcons from the 148th Fighter Wing Air National Guard are launched in the early morning Dec. 3, 2008 in Duluth, Minn.  The aircraft and maintainers will deploy to Joint Base Balad, Iraq as a part of an Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Jason W. Rolfe) (Released)

F-16C Fighting Falcons from the 148th Fighter Wing Air National Guard are launched in the early morning Dec. 3, 2008 in Duluth, Minn. The aircraft and maintainers will deploy to Joint Base Balad, Iraq as a part of an Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Jason W. Rolfe) (Released)

148th Fighter Wing guardsmen load a C17 Globemaster from McChord AFB in Duluth, Minn. in preparation for approximately 45 Air National Guard members deploying to Joint Base Balad, Iraq on Dec. 3, 2008 as a part of an Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Jason W. Rolfe) (Released)

148th Fighter Wing guardsmen load a C17 Globemaster from McChord AFB in Duluth, Minn. in preparation for approximately 45 Air National Guard members deploying to Joint Base Balad, Iraq on Dec. 3, 2008 as a part of an Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Jason W. Rolfe) (Released)

F-16C Fighting Falcons from the 148th Fighter Wing Air National Guard are launched in the early morning Dec. 3, 2008 in Duluth, Minn.  The aircraft and maintainers will deploy to Joint Base Balad, Iraq as a part of an Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Jason W. Rolfe) (Released)

F-16C Fighting Falcons from the 148th Fighter Wing Air National Guard are launched in the early morning Dec. 3, 2008 in Duluth, Minn. The aircraft and maintainers will deploy to Joint Base Balad, Iraq as a part of an Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Jason W. Rolfe) (Released)

U.S. Air Force Col. Mark Johnson, 148th Fighter Wing Commander, (right) helps guardsmen as they load a C17 Globemaster in Duluth, Minn. Dec. 3, 2008.  148th Fighter Wing members are deploying to Joint Base Balad, Iraq as a part of an Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Jason W. Rolfe) (Released)

U.S. Air Force Col. Mark Johnson, 148th Fighter Wing Commander, (right) helps guardsmen as they load a C17 Globemaster in Duluth, Minn. Dec. 3, 2008. 148th Fighter Wing members are deploying to Joint Base Balad, Iraq as a part of an Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Jason W. Rolfe) (Released)

Duluth, Minn. -- Approximately 45 personnel and an undisclosed number of F-16s departed from the 148th Fighter Wing early Wednesday morning.

The 148th Fighter Wing will be supporting Operation IRAQI FREEDOM; providing Central Command Commanders air support.
 
The 148th has had personnel and jets at Balad Air Base since September 2008, providing Theater Airborne Reconnaissance System (TARS) support.  In total, the 148th will have approximately 225 personnel deployed to Balad, while almost 50 more personnel are currently deployed to other mid-east locations, including Afghanistan.
 
This deployment is expected to conclude in January of 2009

This is the 148th Fighter Wing's third AEF deployment to Balad; previous deployments were in May-June 2005 and Mar-May 2007.
 
All of the 125 148th Fighter Wing personnel who departed on Thanksgiving have arrived safely at Balad.
 
Since the 148th Fighter Wing's last AEF deployment to Balad, the 148th has accomplished the following:
- Sep 08 - the 148th provided air support during the Republican National Convention; establishing a second ASA Detachment in Minneapolis. During the convention, the 148th responded to three airspace violations and performed Combat Air Patrols.
- Apr 08 - the 148th Fighter Wing was the first Air Force, Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard unit to earn OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program Star Rating.
- Jan to Feb 08 (6-weeks) - deployed personnel and jets to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska to perform Air Sovereignty Alert while Alaska F-15 pilots and maintainers completed training after being grounded for 3-months. While at Elmendorf, the 148th was the first F-16 unit to intercept a Russian "Bear" Bomber off the coast of Alaska.
- Nov 07 to Jan 08 (2 ½ months) - deployed personnel and jets to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii to perform Air Sovereignty Alert (ASA) after the fleet of Air Force F-15s were grounded after an accident in St. Louis in early November 2007.
- Oct 07 - the 148th earned an "Excellent" rating on their Operational Readiness Inspection.
- Jun to July 07 (5-weeks) - deployed to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina to perform Air Sovereignty Alert at the request of the Air Force.

The 148th Fighter Wing is an Air National Guard Wing based in Duluth, MN.
The 148th has 1065 personnel, of which approximately 450 are full-time and 600 are considered traditional guard members.   
The 148th flies the F-16C, Block 25 Fighting Falcon.