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114th Fighter Wing spring accomplishments

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- As we wrap up spring and enter into our summer months, we certainly have much to be thankful for this year. The wing redeployed nearly 300 Airmen from Iraq in our third Air Expeditionary Force rotation since 2006 as well as an additional 30 ECS members who were deployed to nine different countries. Deployment lengths varied from 60 to over 180 days producing many challenges for families and employers. Your unwavering attitude and professionalism is what consistently produces the best trained Airmen in the world.

During our June UTA, we were able to give a small token of appreciation with a Hometown Heroes Salute. Not only was it an opportunity to recognize our warriors who have deployed, but to show our appreciation to families, employers and other center of influence individuals who serve behind the scenes. I can't thank you enough for the commitment and sacrifice all of you make for the citizens of this nation.

Another significant event this spring was the decision by our national leaders to announce the 114th Fighter Wing as one of two units in the Air National Guard to convert to newer F-16s. The unit was selected to receive 22 Block 40s from Hill Air Force Base, Utah and currently have accepted 12 of the newer F-16s and will have the remainder of the fleet by the end of the summer. With an extremely short notice to execute, detailed planning efforts led to an outstanding conversion plan coordinating with the National Guard Bureau, Air Combat Command and Hill Air Force Base. The capabilities of the Block 40 will certainly help bridge the gap to newer aircraft and reflects on the confidence that our command has on all men and women of the South Dakota Air National Guard.

On another note, after an alarming number of deaths caused by suicide and motor vehicle accidents, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz directed a stand down to reinvigorate the wingman concept and discuss strategies to prevent suicides and accidents. The Wing stood down Saturday afternoon of our June Unit Training Assembly to focus on 'Airmen taking care of Airmen' and finding ways to improve wingman skills. ACE: Ask, Care, Escort is a reminder for all of us to get involved and change a potential life or death situation. Hopefully, the examples and training will give you the tools to make a difference. Have a safe and enjoyable summer.