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News | Jan. 31, 2017

104th Fighter Wing Airmen Aim High on Alert Status Defending the Northeast

By Senior Master Sgt. Julie Avey 104th Fighter Wing

The 104th Fighter Wing screams over the Northeast protecting the skies after receiving the call. The Airmen at Barnes Air National Guard Base scramble whether it is a National emergency or it is for an evaluation as it was the case this time. Standing ready each day of the year the Airmen showcase their skills and expertise.

Without notice, members of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Inspector General Team arrived on base Friday January 27, to test the wing’s ability to defend the Northeast airspace.

“I am very happy to report that we received the highest rating of "Mission Ready" for our NORAD IG Alert Force Evaluation here at the 104th Fighter Wing," said Col. James J. Keefe, Commander of the 104th Fighter Wing.

The 104th FW, Massachusetts Air National Guard received results from the NORAD Inspector General team on their Alert Mission inspection resulting in the highest rating of “Mission Ready” for 24/7 Alert units in the United States Air Force and U.S. Air National Guard. 

The purpose of the alert evaluation is to assess the procedures and execution of the 104th Fighter Wing’s alert mission, ensuring they are prepared to execute the mission every day. The Inspector general team from NORAD's headquarters evaluated all supporting elements of the region's mission such as the ability to maintain and generate alert aircraft and security forces ability to secure. 

The Aerospace Control Alert (ACA) mission at Barnes Air National Guard Base was evaluated and received the highest rating allowable of “Mission Ready” on all four NORAD IG sub graded areas of inspection and an overall rating of “Mission Ready”. 

“If you have ever been through an Air Force evaluation, you know this is not the normal ratings,” said Keefe. “Even more amazing is we have a skeleton force at our home station Operations and Maintenance Groups due to our Weapons Systems Evaluations occurring at Tyndall Air Force Base. This was a no-notice evaluation moved by IG from a different date at the end of last year.” 

The four areas of inspection are Command and Control-Mission Ready, Mission Employment-Mission Ready, Alert Aircraft-Mission Ready, and Security Forces-Mission Ready. To achieve a “mission ready” rating, it requires years of expertise and attention to detail by numerous personnel in every area, all focused on delivering the very best results for our nation’s defense.

In all there were twelve strengths within the areas of inspection highlighted by the inspectors. There were two strengths under Command and Control, Mission Employment received four strengths, and Alert Aircraft received six strengths. 

“The NORAD IG Team was very impressed with our mission, and mentioned to me that he considered us a top tier unit,” said Keefe. 

Additionally, two Barnestormers were recognized by the NORAD IG during the inspection.

Staff Sgt. Rachel Morin of the 104th Security Forces received Superior Performer recognition along with Chief Master Sgt. Robert Roy, Chief Enlisted Manager of the Aerospace Control Alert’s aircraft maintenance operations. 

“Chief Roy has been here through the stand-up of the ACA alert mission and has led us to success over the last seven years” said Keefe. “These ratings are a testament to his dedication and professionalism.” 

“I am very proud of our whole team,” said Keefe. Our team of professionals proved they execute the NORAD ‘no fail’ mission. 

The Wing trains for and performs combat roles while simultaneously executing the ACA mission from its home station on a daily basis. The 104th FW is a Wing assigned to the Massachusetts National Guard and Air Combat Command. The Wing is equipped with the F-15 Eagle and supports worldwide overseas operations, homeland operations, domestic response, security cooperation and international strategic partnerships. 

The homeland mission of the 104th FW is the ACA mission providing armed F-15 fighters ready to scramble in a moment's notice to protect the Northeast from any airborne threat. The Wing is responsible for protecting a quarter of the nation's population and one third of the Gross Domestic Product.