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174th Makes Preparations for Reaper

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems contractors refuel a MQ-9 Reaper at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., June 19. Calif. Gen. John D.W. Corley, Air Combat Command commander, met with Army Gen. William S. Wallace, Army Training and Doctrine Command commanding general, June 30 to discuss a new concept of operations that would maximize the contributions unmanned aerial systems bring to the joint warfighter. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lance Cheung)

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems contractors refuel a MQ-9 Reaper at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., June 19. Calif. Gen. John D.W. Corley, Air Combat Command commander, met with Army Gen. William S. Wallace, Army Training and Doctrine Command commanding general, June 30 to discuss a new concept of operations that would maximize the contributions unmanned aerial systems bring to the joint warfighter. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lance Cheung)

HANCOCK FIELD AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, NY -- Members of the 174th Fighter Wing here are now preparing for a major change: the conversion from the F-16 Fighting Falcon to the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle.

The 174th Fighter Wing is the first Air National Guard unit in the country to be converting to the MQ-9 Reaper.

The unit is making the transition starting this fall and is expected to continue over the next few years. Wing Commander, Col. Kevin W. Bradley says the unit is focusing on three main efforts:

1. Safely fly, fix and support the F-16 mission.
2. Prepare, deploy, support and reintegrate personnel.
3. Stand-up the MQ-9 Field Training Detachment and the first of three MQ-9 Combat Air Patrols.

The MQ-9 Reaper is a medium-to-high altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system that has a wing span of 66 feet and is capable of flying approximately 230 miles per hour. The174th Fighter Wing here will operate the aircraft remotely from the base while the aircraft will be in-flight elsewhere in support of Air Force missions worldwide.

The base has experienced many aircraft conversions since the unit's inception in 1947 and expects a smooth transition. The Reaper represents the fifth aircraft conversion for the 174th Fighter Wing and the base is experiencing many construction projects over the next year in support of the conversion.

Congressman Jim Walsh announced on September 24, 2008 that the FY 2009 budget for Defense, Homeland Security, Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs functions includes funding for department of defense related projects that include $10.4 million for projects at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base.

One of the construction projects is preparing for MQ-9 Reaper maintenance training with standing up a world class field training detachment by converting one of the existing base buildings. "The field training detachment is going to be the place to come for maintenance for the MQ-9," said the director of the conversion office, Chief Master Sergeant Judy L. Van Wie.

The maintenance training facility will train Active Duty Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, and foreign allies. The base will also be updating the Civil Engineering building, Communications building, Operations Group building and the dining facility. 

The buildings won't be the only changes to the base as the unit members adjust to the new requirements.  Chief Master Sergeant Judy Van Wie says, "People have some decisions about whether or not to retrain." As the unit converts from the F-16 Fighting Falcon, unit members directly affected by the change have many options, some of which are to retrain, change units or retire.

The 174th Fighter Wing is in the process of filling the open jobs that have been created by the conversion. Unit members can go the Conversion Office in the Headquarters building to view job postings or to the 174th web page at www.174fw.ang.af.mil and then click on CoP link under  "Conversion Office."  Unit members must request access to the site before logging in.  It can be accessed through the Air Force Portal, but use of a CAC card makes the process much easier.

Potential members interested in joining the 174th Fighter Wing can contact an Air National Guard recruiter at 1-800-883-4484.