PRINCE SULTAN AIR BASE, SAUDI ARABIA -- The U.S. Air National Guard’s 148th Fighter Wing, deployed their 179th Fighter Squadron to AFCENT’s area of responsibility in mid-April of 2022. Under the command of the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing, the 179th adopted the expeditionary moniker as they operated out of Prince Sultan Air Base in the heart of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
During their activation, the 179th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron flew over 730 sorties with more than 4,600 flight hours, conducted two Agile Combat Employment exercises with Partner Nation forces in Oman and Egypt, and demonstrated credible coalition airpower to enhance regional security.
“Our mission was to stabilize the region, advance multinational interoperability and deter potential adversaries,” said Senior Master Sgt. Glen Flanagan, the senior enlisted member of 179th EFS’s deployment. “Day in and day out we met the air-tasking order objectives almost flawlessly. To pull off two ACE missions in the middle of that and have the opportunity to operate how we train was awesome to see.”
Back home in the northern U.S. climate of Duluth, Minnesota, the Guardsmen operate primarily during the day, focusing on training and alert operations in support of Homeland Defense missions. In the KSA they worked a high operations tempo, launching and recovering Block 50 F-16CM Fighting Falcons to deliver safe and effective combat airpower at all hours of the day or night.
“At PSAB our focus was on the mission,” said Flanagan. “We took on more risk because there were real adversaries to deal with. So it was a pretty intense assignment the whole time they were up there.”
While the fighter pilots forged partnerships and deterred aggressors in the air, the Guardsmen on the ground enhanced intratheater interoperability.
“Having some of our specialists learn how to be a crew chief and doing those functions well was really good to see,” said Flanagan. “We also had a couple of different groups come down from the 379th out of Al Udeid. We trained their weapons guys on how to do integrated combat turns on F-16s and their crew chiefs how to do hot pit refueling.”
The joint base multi-capability training conducted by Duluth has increased fighter sortie range and longevity throughout the AOR as the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Qatar now has Airmen capable of reloading and refueling F-16s still running for quick turn take-offs.
“We had a high number of first-time deployers and personnel in leadership positions this deployment,” said Flanagan. “We relied on them to perform the way we trained them and they came through.”
The 179th EFS has since redeployed home, replaced by the 79th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.