By Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain , 149th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 03, 2009
LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Members and staff from the Texas Legislature and the U.S. Congress paid a visit to the Texas Air National Guard's 149th Fighter Wing this month. Hosted by Col. Kenneth Nereson, wing commander, the public officials were briefed on the unit's federal and state missions, including F-16 flight training and emergency preparedness and hurricane relief, visited with Airmen assigned to the unit, inspected an F-16 and its flight simulator, and reviewed medical and aircraft maintenance operations.
The primary federal mission of the 149th Fighter Wing, as part of the U.S. Air Force's Air Education and Training Command, is to train Air Force, Air National Guard, and foreign partner's F-16 pilots to be combat-ready. As part of the Texas Military Forces, under the authority of the governor, the 149th Fighter Wing is an ANG unit that is ready to be called upon to respond in times of disaster and humanitarian crises.
The 149th Fighter Wing's footprint reaches across central, south and west Texas. In addition to operations at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, the unit manages 5 geographically separated units including: mission support for the Texas ANG headquarters at Camp Mabry and the 209th Weather Flight at Camp Mabry, in Austin; the 204th Security Forces Squadron at Fort Bliss, in El Paso; the 217th Intelligence Training Squadron at Goodfellow Air Force Base, in San Angelo; and the 273rd Information Operations Squadron at Port San Antonio. While not designated as a GSU, as a part of the 182nd Fighter Squadron, the 149th Fighter Wing is also responsible for personnel assigned to the Yankee Range, at the McMullen Target Complex in South Texas.
In recent years, the 149th has been at the tip of the spear for hurricane response in Texas. Before assuming command of the Texas Air National Guard, Brig. Gen. John F. Nichols, who attended the event, served as Wing Commander for the 149th Fighter Wing and was the hurricane response Joint Task Force commander for the Texas Military Forces. The unit provided direct disaster response following hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Dolly, Gustav, and Ike. Colonel Nereson reported that the 149th Fighter Wing remains ready to respond should another disaster strike the state of Texas.
During a briefing, General Nichols explained that the Air National Guard unit must have a federal mission in order to maintain the state's preparedness and disaster response missions. With the F-16 nearing the end of its operational life-cycle, Colonel Nereson noted, the 149th stands ready to continue its state-directed emergency preparedness, disaster response and humanitarian missions, as well as maintain combat flight training with a vision of migrating from the F-16 to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, if selected by the Department of Defense.
During the visit, U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, of San Antonio, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, provided a congressional update to members of the unit, and discussed the status of military construction, or MILCON, projects involving the 149th Fighter Wing that may be included in the final Department of Defense Appropriations Act for the next fiscal year. Congressman Rodriguez said that he is working closely with U.S. Rep. Charles Gonzalez, of San Antonio, whose district physically encompasses Lackland Air Force Base, to track federal issues impacting the 149th Fighter Wing.
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and state Rep. Frank Corte, Jr., who are both from San Antonio, and each chair committees in the Texas Senate and House of Representatives, respectively, which have jurisdiction over issues involving the Texas Air National Guard, were among those present. Senator Van de Putte expressed her appreciation for the member's service, and described recent state legislation that will benefit Airmen and their families. Representative Corte, also a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve with combat experience, noted the important link between Marines on the ground and the combat air support provided by Air Force and Air National Guard pilots.
In addition to the elected officials present, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, and state Rep. Jose Menendez had key staff in attendance.
Colonel Nereson said he looks forward to maintaining an open line of communication with policymakers in Austin and Washington as the 149th Fighter Wing continues to meet state and federal needs.