More than 300 members of the 77th Fighter Squadron and the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron were deployed to Iraq Tuesday morning from Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter.
Lt. Col. Andy Shanahan, who is in charge of the air craft maintenance squadron, explains the mission. “We have to make sure we’re on top of our game–maintenance wise, making sure we’re fixing airplanes exactly the way we’ve been trained to and doing it in a safe and timely manner, to keep airplanes ready for pilots to fly their mission.”
Lt. Col Shanahan says they keep a good balance of manpower wherever their planes are flown. “When it’s time for one fighter squadron to go over to the desert, or wherever they’re going, we send the right number of people in our aircraft maintenance unit to support the number of airplanes that are going. Then we bring back other aircraft maintenance units. It helps us out manpower wise, because we don’t have to send everyone.”
Lt. Col. Shanahan bid farewell Tuesday morning to the majority of his squadron. “About 300 of our finest folks just left here to go over to Iraq -and we’re proud of them and looking forward to the successes that they do over there. And then, the end of this week, or early next week, we have another fighter squadron plus all of the associated maintenance that are coming back from Afghanistan. We’re looking forward to having those folks back home.”
Air Force officials say the missions for the squadrons will include close air support to protect ground forces.
Squadron pilots and their F-16 Fighting Falcons are scheduled to depart next week for the four-month deployment.