174th Fighter Wing holds ceremony to retire last manned fighters
Two thousand Airmen, family members and friends bid farewell to the last two F-16s operated by the New York Air National Guard's 174th Fighter Wing Saturday March 6. This day marked the wing's complete transition to MQ-9 Reaper operations.
Wing Commander of the 147th Fighter Wing, Col. Kevin Bradley, and his wingman Lt. Col. Dan Tester took off on the final flight at 3:15 p.m., marking the climax of the emotional sendoff ceremony that ended 63-years of fighter operations at the base. Tester was the first to takeoff, followed moments later by Bradley. They made three passes over the facility, including a pass over the assembled group which had spilled onto the ramp area outside the hangar.
Brig. Gen. Patrick Murphy, the Adjutant General of New York, reminded the Airmen and their families that the event was a celebration of the future of the 147th.
"Today should not be a moment of sadness as I have spoken to Air Force and Air National Guard Leaders about the dwindling piloted aircraft," Murphy said. "Thanks to your leadership this unit is one of the most, if not the most, current unit in the Air National Guard with these Unmanned Aerial Vehicles."
"The F-16 has been an outstanding aircraft for the unit, but it is just a machine. It has been the airmen of the 174th Fighter Wing that has made up this mission since 1988 and will continue to do so into the future," Bradley told the crowd.
While Bradley and Tester prepared to take off the Airmen and guests witnessed the cutting of the F-16 farewell cake. This was immediately followed by a rousing F-16 sendoff video that was produced by the 174FW Visual Information Office.
After Bradley and Tester completed their final pass overhead they headed north to the 174thForward Operating Location on Wheeler-Sack Army Air Field located at Ft. Drum. The airspace over Fort Drum has served as the training space for the 174th for many years as well as other aircraft from all over the Northeast. It will continue to be utilized by other units for their training requirements as well as the unit's new MQ-9 mission in the future.