Airmen and aircraft from the 194th Fighter Squadron at the Fresno Air National Guard Base began a six-month deployment on Friday, headed to Europe to augment U.S. forces on the continent.
This will be the first combat deployable mission since 2001 for the 144th Fighter Wing, according to Col. Reed Drake, 144th Fighter Wing commander. The 144th Fighter Wing includes the 194th Fighter Squadron.
“As part of our recent conversion from the F-16 Fighting Falcon to the F-15C Eagle, we now have a combat operational mission,” Drake said. “That said, many airmen assigned to the 144th Fighter Wing have been continuously deployed for support missions (i.e. security forces, civil engineers) for various overseas operations.”
Twelve F-15C Eagles and about 350 airmen from both the Fresno base and the 131st Fighter Squadron at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts will be deployed to Iceland and the Netherlands as part of an ongoing effort to promote stability in the region while deterring Russian aggression in eastern Europe, according to a report in Stars and Stripes, a newspaper serving the military.
Seven of those 12 F-15s came from Fresno, Drake said, and as part of that support, a few airmen have been deployed to assist with the cargo and equipment.
As part of the U.S. commitment to NATO, the airmen will provide air surveillance in Iceland, which doesn’t have its own military. This will be the first time that an Air National Guard unit will fly air surveillance in Iceland for NATO, Capt. Lauren Ott, a spokeswoman for U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa, told Stars and Stripes.
At the Leeuwarden Air Base in the Netherlands, airmen will conduct flying training with the F-15s, including an international exercise designed to coordinate operations among fighter aircraft from several countries. The training is expected to extend into Bulgaria, Estonia and Romania.
The airmen are expected to remain in Europe for about six months.