The squadrons and groups that make up the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base since 2001 have been involved in major combat operations in both Afghanistan, Iraq and other areas in southeast Asia.
On Aug. 19, the U.S. Air Force recognized the men and women serving in the wing for their work during Operation Enduring Freedom — the official U.S. government name for the war in Afghanistan — by presenting them with the 2013 Air Combat Command Meritorious Unit Award. Given annually to only the top six units in Air Combat Command, the commendation was announced by Air Force Gen. Mike Hostage, its commander.
Wing Commander Col. Clay Hall said the award “is given for exceptionally meritorious conduct in direct support of combat operations for at least 90 days against an armed enemy of the United States on or after Sept. 11, 2001.”
“I am proud of the contributions of all our airmen,” Hall said. According to Item archives, the wing won the same recognition in 2012, 2011 and 2009.
During the period for which the wing was recognized this year, the wing deployed 18 F-16 Fighting Falcons and 255 airmen to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Overseas, the unit flew more than 2,800 combat flights and supported 85 troops-in-contact events. The operations resulted in the destruction of numerous weapons caches, 35 roadside bombs and the elimination of 118 enemy combatants, according to a release from the 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office.
“The airmen of the 20th Fighter Wing should be proud of themselves,” Hall said. “Our success during combat operations is a product of the entire wing’s dedication and commitment to excellence.”
The wing is broken up into four primary segments:
The 20th Operations Group, which includes the 55th, 77th and 79th fighter squadrons — also called the Shooters, Gamblers and Tigers, respectively;
The 20th Maintenance Group, which is responsible for fixing and maintaining aircraft, weapons needs and all the nuts and bolts in between;
The 20th Mission Support Group, which helps defend, supply and sustain everyone on the ground and in the air; and
The 20th Medical Group, which sees to all the medical needs of the unit.
All told, about 4,000 personnel comprise the 19 different squadrons under the four group umbrellas.
“It takes a total wing effort to generate combat-ready airpower and airmen, get them out the door, execute the mission with discipline and precision and then re-deploy them back home,” Hall said. “It’s a total team effort, (whether) someone (is) actually deployed or not. ... The excellence down range is a product of the entire wing, and we all should feel a level of pride in that.”
Senior Staff Writer Robert J. Baker and Airman 1st Class Jonathan Bass of 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs contributed to this report.