Lt. Col. Jim Dixon and Capt. Kyle Woolf, both pilots for the 150th Fighter Wing here, prepare equipment prior to a sortie. The fighter wing is a New Mexico Air National Guard unit and has been on Kirtland for more than 60 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Adam Wooten)
An F-16 pilot here checks his canopy before closing it. The 150th Fighter Wing primary mission is air interdiction and uses F-16C fighters. The wing flies approximately 3,800 sorties a year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Adam Wooten)
4/16/2007 - KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, New Mexico -- When hearing the phrase "Air Force base" many think of Air Force fighter jets taking off into the wild blue yonder, but the F-16s here belong to the New Mexico Air National Guard unit, the 150th Fighter Wing.
The primary mission of the "Flying Tacos" is air interdiction to support Air Combat Command's 12th Air Force, with worldwide deployment capability. The wing also maintains a Defense Systems Evaluation tasking and conducts testing of different domestic and foreign surface-to-air missile systems and air defense artillery. The wing has been a part of the Kirtland community for more than 60 years.
"The 150th as a whole is a very lean forward organization in that we train aggressively and deploy and will execute the mission without hesitation," Lt. Col. Dennis Gallegos, the commander of the maintenance group.
There are nearly 1,000 members of the 150th, with one-third of them serving as full-time guardsmen and women. Many of the traditional Guard members in the wing are even more connected to other associate units of Team Kirtland because they hold full-time jobs at Sandia Labs or the Department of Energy, Colonel Gallegos said. He also said that many of them served on active duty in the other branches of service prior to joining the Guard, which brings diverse experiences and backgrounds together.
Colonel Gallegos said that the members of the wing are extremely involved in the outlying community because they live here on a permanent basis and are able to fully immerse in the community, as well as being involved in activities held here. He said that the wing also works together with other base units in a very strong partnership.
"We work together with other base entities to see where we can use each others' skills to make our organizations better," Colonel Gallegos said.
Staff Sgt. Luis Otero has served in the New Mexico Air National Guard for just over seven years and has been a full-time Guard member for about two years. He is currently serving as a crew chief in the repair and reclamation shop in the maintenance group. He said serving in the Guard is something he had always wanted to do.
"Ever since I can remember, I was coming here to see the planes taking off and I was on the other side of the fence - it's great to be on this side of the fence because this is what I always wanted to do," Sergeant Otero said.
He said he originally joined the Guard because he didn't want to attend college right out of high school and had seen the successes other family had had in the Guard. He said that he enjoys serving in the Guard because is working on something that is greater than him and the family that other Guard members are to each other.
In the summer of 2004, Sergeant Otero deployed to Iraq with the wing and said that his time there really demonstrated the teamwork and camaraderie that the wing has and how that attitude helps to make things happen. He said the deployment showed all of the hard work he and his fellow servicemembers put in everyday on a larger scale.
Colonel Gallegos said the wing is very deployable and they train everyday for combat situations. Since the Global War on Terror began, the wing has deployed numerous times and stood up the first F-16 at Balad Air Base, Iraq. They will be deploying again in the future. The wing currently flies F-16C's and flies 3,800 sorties a year.