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Sun, Apr 20, 2003

Johnnie Comes Flying Home Again, Hurrah!

Nighthawks Home After Combat In Iraq

Five F-117 Nighthawks touched down here April 16 after supporting operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

The tremendous support of the base and Alamogordo community provided the returning airmen with an outstanding homecoming, said Lt. Col. J.L. Briggs, an F-117 pilot returning from his seventh deployment to Southwest Asia. He said it was great to be part of a mission that was an asset in the combat zone.

"When the crew received orders, they knew what they had to do to accomplish the objective of disarming and removing the Iraqi regime," Briggs said. "Every unit was well trained for the job and ready to go. Even though each unit is trained individually, during combat operations, every element cohesively joins to become one team."

I'd Like To Thank My Crew Chief, My Ordnance Officer, My Fuel Handler...

Pilots are a very visible tip of the iceberg during combat operations, but without people from maintenance support, intelligence, services, supply, security forces and all other elements, the jets would not leave the ground, he said.

"Pilots fly the jet and execute a mission that's based on an overwhelming amount of effort," Briggs said. "A lot of support goes unnoticed because people see pilots dropping bombs, but they don't see the hours of labor that it takes to get the mission going."

The Holloman support troops and F-117s played an important role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to Briggs.

The F-117s were the first aircraft to drop bombs in Baghdad on March 19. They flew more than 80 missions and dropped nearly 100 Enhanced Guided Bomb Units, EGBU-27s.

The Nighthawks also supported Operation Desert Storm in 1991, but enhanced weapons systems on current models allowed the jet to be even more lethal during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Briggs said.

Tough On Those Back Home

While airmen are deployed, many spouses assume the role of single parent and manage the household. At the same time, in the back of their minds, they have an inevitable concern for the safety and welfare of their loved one in the combat zone, Briggs said.

"Many families accept the role, which is one of the toughest in the Air Force," he said. "These families take on a tough mission that they keep going day after day. The Air Force offers a number of programs to support troops and their families, but Holloman and the Alamogordo community raise the bar. Our team is grateful for the outpouring of support, thoughts and prayers from the generous hearts of these communities."

(Thanks to the staff of Air Combat Command News Service)



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