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Double-time: Shaw delivers back to back deployments

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jacob Gutierrez
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Across the world in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, the 79th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and 79th Expeditionary Fighter Generation Squadron “Tigers” are delivering on promises made when the squadron deployed in July 2022. The Tiger Mission Generation Force Element is operating U.S. Air Force aircraft in partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to deter Iran, compete strategically and counter violent extremist organizations. 

Stateside at Shaw AFB, the remaining two fighter squadrons of the 20th Fighter Wing are continuing their mission to stand ready to deliver an agile force capable of employing a variety of roles in the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Between numerous readiness exercises and agile combat employment training events, these Airmen are maintaining requirements concurrent with increasing operational demands. 

In order to maintain a sufficient and sustainable presence in the AOR, Airmen assigned to the 77th Fighter Squadron and 77th Fighter Generation Squadron “Gamblers” safely deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia between October 15-17. 

“Team Shaw has put forth an immense amount of effort to prepare and deliver the Gamblers to their destination safely,” said Col. Kristoffer Smith, 20th Fighter Wing commander. “The dedication to remain trained and ready allows us to deploy at a moment’s notice and ensure we meet strategic objectives anywhere in the world.”

 Generating a deployment is a large personnel and manpower undertaking that requires months of strategic preparation to guarantee a successful operation. Coinciding with the transition to the Air Force Force Generation (AFFORGEN) structure, Team Shaw is operating under a model for building sustainable high-end airpower readiness for the joint force. The model has initiated changes across the total force in determining how forces are able to present themselves to combatant commanders creating potential overlaps in previously scheduled deployments. 

“Preparations to be internationally tasked within a very short time period started back in April,” said Maj. Jessica Watts, 77th Fighter Generation Squadron commander. “The prep work involves a large amount of scheduled maintenance getting moved forward because a lot of work cannot be completed once our team arrives in the AOR.” 

The process to prepare for this deployment was not unfamiliar to the squadrons. The Gamblers had previously been on site at PSAB just 18 months prior to their October departure. 

Increasing aircraft availability and ensuring the readiness of pilots and maintenance Airmen were the primary priorities prior to departure. This required ensuring operators were ready to deliver sorties stateside while also hastily preparing aircraft ahead of schedule to arrive in the AOR and deliver air tasking orders. 

“The workload has doubled for even the youngest Airman out on the flightline because they are trying to maintain both of these priorities,” said Watts. “But at the end of the day we all wear the uniform and when we are called to deploy everyone doubles down.” 

When the Gamblers join the 79th EFS/EFGS, they will provide a living, breathing example of the strategic power of partnerships and teamwork and help demonstrate the strength of alliance architecture in determining a way forward through complex and shared challenges. 

Additionally, the Gamblers will be expected to lead and field ACE and multi-capable Airmen exercises while still generating combat air tasking orders. The scope of the deployment will be a continuously measured operation in balancing and sustaining both. 

“Our goal is to win,” said Watts. “But any kind of lesson learned to make MCA and ACE concepts better overall is a win. We’ll evaluate the extensive training and exercising we’ve done thus far and continue to evolve.”