One of the most delightful parts of attending a Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada is the opportunity to see aircraft from a variety of different units. Period 15-1, held from 26 January to 13 February 2015, was certainly no exception. This particular flag was very heavy with escort and strike aircraft; four different units fielding the Lockheed-Martin F-16C Fighting Falcon were represented.
Of of all, the most visually striking aircraft of the lot was from the Vermont Air National Guard‘s 158 FW. Tail 86-0277, a Block 30D F-16C+, features an absolutely spectacular paint scheme that would make any Viper aficionado swoon. “The Green Mountain Boys” of the 134 FS were only the fifth air national guard unit formed in the United States.
The Vermont guard underwent many changes in the infant years and in the 1960s the 134th became a tenant unit within the 158th Fighter Interceptor Group, now known as the 158th Fighter Wing. With no base to call their own, exercises were initially held at Camp Johnson and air operations at the airport in south Burlington.
Falling under the Air Combat Command, the Vermont Air National Guard’s current mission encompasses national defense, counter-drug missions, and aerospace control alert as part of Operation Noble Eagle. The wing has always had a strong reputation as being one of the best Guard Viper units in the country, but it furthered its distinction on September 11, 2001. The Green Mountain Boys were the first fighters in the air over New York City following the attacks on the World Trade Center.
For a significant period of time, 134 FS pilots worked with other Guard units to conduct Combat Air Patrols over New York and surrounding areas, flying for 122 consecutive days with no break. Because of their dedication and professionalism during that time, the 158 FW earned the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.
Since then, the Vermont Air National Guard, has performed joint operations at home and abroad, successfully completing each mission and furthering the reputation of the Green Mountain Boys. Making another milestone in its storied history, the Air Force announced the 134 FS will be the first Guard unit to receive the Lockheed-Martin F-35A Lightning II.
(Featured Photo Courtesy of Scott Wolff)