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Wing ends fighter mission, embraces intelligence

OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. -- An Air National Guard fighter wing bid a bittersweet goodbye to its old mission as it embraced its new reason for remaining on Cape Cod 24 days into the new year.

The 102nd Fighter Wing flew its final mission when two F-15 Eagle jet fighters were scrambled into a snow-threatening January sky during a ceremonial sortie witnessed by approximately 500 wing members, military officials, family, friends, and local government officials. Col. Anthony Schiavi and Maj. Dan Nash were the pilots.

"At approximately 1320 today, the alert klaxon sounded for the last time," said Schiavi, commander of the highly regarded unit that is being transformed into the 102nd Intelligence Wing. The F-15 pilots and crews are being replaced by specialists who will use computer technology to acquire, analyze and distribute data gathered from all over the world to combatant commanders and others who need to know what enemy forces are doing.

It is considered a prime example of how well a military unit is adjusting to a new role dictated by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission. The 102nd is the Air Guard's fifth oldest unit, born in the spring of 1921 as the Massachusetts National Guard's 101st Observation Squadron and federally recognized that November.

"We are ready to show the Air Force, the National Guard Bureau and the nation what the Massachusetts Air National Guard can do," said Maj. Gen. Michael Akey, the Bay State's ANG commander.

The 30-minute Thursday flight included three low-level flybys around the base and signaled the end of the 102nd's more than 35 years of continuous alert on Cape Cod. It has watched over a half-million square miles of Northeast airspace, including heavily-populated Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, since June 1972. It has logged over 80,000 accident-free flying hours during that time, Schiavi said.

"On 9/11, shortly before 9 a.m., our F-15s were scrambled into a clear blue Cape Cod sky, and headed south for New York City - to a scene that none of us could imagine," Schiavi reminded the well wishers about how the fighters from Cape Cod were the first military aircraft to respond to the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center. "But in the days, weeks and months that followed, the 102nd flew thousands of hours over many locations to ensure the safety of our homeland," Schiavi added.