Fighter jets from the S.C. Air National Guard flew over Myrtle Beach Tuesday as part of a routine exercise, said Senior Master Sgt. Ed Snyder.
It wasn't the first time the jets have practiced on the Grand Strand and won't be the last, though a date hasn't been set. Some have been over the ocean, but on Tuesday the flight path was over the city of Myrtle Beach.
The exercise, which involved escorting a civilian-appearing aircraft Tuesday, is conducted as often as twice a month. "We need to do it on a routine basis to make sure we hone our skills,'' Snyder said. Frequently, Snyder said they will fly over the Florence area, but practice exercises move around the state to prevent disrupting the same community repeatedly. "We're going to do our best to not interfere with the civilian population as much as possible."
It's all part of homeland defense and the exercise is designed to ensure the S.C. ANG can respond rapidly as part of Aerospace Control Alert Mission, which Snyder said came in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Shaw Air Force Base, in Sumter, previously had the mission, but it was transferred to the McEntire Joint National Guard Base in May 2011. The transfer, Snyder said, is actually a ``return to our bread and butter missions [by] protecting our state and our nation.'' The Air National Guard at the McEntire base outside Columbia serves the Southeast Region protecting airspace in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, Snyder said. "Bottom line, we provide a quick reaction force to any concerns within the region as far as the airspace, whether it be civil authorities or any possible aggression to the nation,'' Snyder said.