Air Guard Unit Takes Raytheon Trophy

The Air Force announced last week that the Minnesota Air National Guard’s 179th Fighter Squadron, the sole F-16 unit of the 148th Fighter Wing based at Duluth, has won the Raytheon Trophy for 2008. USAF presents the Raytheon Trophy, formerly called the Hughes Trophy, to the unit with the best performance in its mission of air defense or air superiority, exercise participation, and inspections, coupled with squadron or individual member accomplishments. Accomplishments attributed to the 179th FS/148th FW included an excellent on a phase II operational readiness inspection and a “mission ready” alert force evaluation rating. The wing’s F-16 force deployed to Hawaii to cover air sovereignty missions for three months while Hawaiian F-15s were under a fleet-wide grounding order and shortly followed that deployment with one to Alaska for five weeks of alert duty, intercepting a Russian Bear bomber in the process. The Minnesota F-16 force also deployed to Iraq in 2008, its third Southwest Asia deployment since 2005. “It’s awesome for the Bulldogs to get recognition for the hard work they did in 2008,” said Lt. Col. Eric Chandler, 179th FS commander. He added, “All our people make it look easy, but it isn’t.” His boss, Col. Frank Stokes, 148th FW commander, said the award “validates the intense effort we have put forth over the last several years—the many times we have … packed up and deployed on short notice and accomplished the mission in a professional, efficient manner.” (148th FW report by Maj. Audra Flanagan)