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[Deployed members of the 9th FS in the fall of 1996.(Greg Feest via F-117A Nighthawk by Paul Crickmore)]

Deployments and Combat

Kuwait 1996
September 12, 1996
Deployment: Kuwait
Action: Excersizes and Combat????

On September 12, 1996, at 4 A.M. EDT five F-117A's deployed to an unnamed location in Southwest Asia to join coalition forces enforcing the U.N.-mandated "no-fly" zone over Iraq under the name of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH/PROVIDE COMFORT. A flight of five more 49th Fighter Wing Nighthawks launched minutes later to begin the 17-hour journey to Al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait. Each F-117A required 15 aerial refuelings to make the transatlantic crossing, which, according to base officials, was the longest fighter deployment since Vietnam. Col. Kurt Cichowski, 49th Operations Group commander, said F-117A fighter pilots were already in place in Southwest Asia.The deployment followed a Sept. 11 firing of an Iraqi SA-6 surface-to-air missile that missed Air Force F-16s patrolling the northern no-fly zone. "I've talked with each of the pilots," Cichowski said. "They're anxious, they know they're going into a war zone and might have to put their lives on the line. But each and every one of them know that's why they put the uniform on. They all stuck their hands in there and swore they'd support and defend the Constitution of the United States. They've got the best training, the best people, the best aircraft in the world, and the hearts and minds of all Americans behind them, so they're ready to go." Capt. Skip Hinman, a Nighthawk pilot, left yesterday as a troop commander of 49th FW maintenance and support personnel. He expects to come back within several days, but would like to stay longer. "One of the reasons I volunteered so quickly was because I've had friends who went over during Desert Storm under the same circumstances and got to fly combat missions," said Hinman. "Sort of like in the movie Independence Day, when the Earth was looking for anybody who had flying experience. "If I do get a chance to fly in combat, of course, there's certainly some apprehension and butterflies, but it's very exciting to have the opportunity to do what you've been trained to do your whole adult life," the 30-year-old San Antonio native said. Tech. Sgt. Rick Minyard said he was also excited and looking forward to the deployment. He's among the small- to medium-size package of maintenance and support personnel accompanying the F-117s to the desert. "I was told a couple of days ago to have my bags ready," said Minyard, a member of 49th Maintenance Squadron, "but I didn't know I was going for sure until yesterday. But in my job, I always have a bag packed, and I'm always ready and willing to go." Minyard said terrorist attacks in the Middle East aimed at U.S. servicemembers makes him apprehensive, "But you've got to have faith in your security police, and I'm confident they can protect us." Most of the F-117 pilots and Nighthawks now deployed to Southwest Asia belong to the 9th Fighter Squadron's Flying Knights, commanded by. Lt. Col. Greg "Beast" Feest. Feest was the F-117 pilot to drop the first bomb on Baghdad during Desert Storm's H-hour -- 3 a.m., Jan. 17, 1991.

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