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The 102nd: Alive and well on Old Cape Cod

OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. -- Capt. Anthony Schiavi became an Air Force pilot of distinction on Jan. 26, 1991, when he shot down a MiG-23 during Operation Desert Storm. Now he is a full colonel and the new commander of the Air National Guard's 1,100-member 102nd Fighter Wing which will soon transform into the 102nd Intelligence Wing because of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission.

The wing on Cape Cod is losing its F-15 Eagles as it is taking on its new, much less visible, intelligence mission of downloading and analyzing data collected from distant war zones to inform battlefield commanders about enemy forces and activities. The wing's 101st Fighter Squadron has been guarding America's skies against enemy threats for a remarkable 86 continuous years. The wing's alert fighters were the first to arrive over New York City after the terrorists attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, and it has not let its guard down since then. It received an unprecedented fourth straight "outstanding" rating following a no-notice inspection, an Alert Force Evaluation, on June 5, three days after Schiavi had assumed command.

The base will also host the Cape Cod Air Show, including the Air Force's Thunderbirds, on Aug. 25-26. That is the final weekend of Air Force Week-New England which will begin in New Hampshire a week earlier. It is all part of the Air Force's 60th anniversary celebration, and it will cast the spotlight directly on the Air Guard. Schiavi recently met with The On Guard to discuss the significance of August's Air Force Week and air show for the base and to talk about the future of his wing. He is satisfied about one thing. The seagull in the patch worn by members of the 101st squadron since 1924 will keep on flying for a long time.

The On Guard: What does an event like Air Force Week-New England, and its related air show here at Otis accomplish for a base or a wing?

Col. Schiavi: It helps us explain to our own folks and to the folks in the community what the Air Force is all about. It gives those folks some insight into our capabilities. It gives us the opportunity to showcase our people and our equipment, primarily our aircraft. The Thunderbirds will be a major part of our show. Considering that the Air Force's 60th anniversary is in September, it's a great recruiting and retention thing for the young folks who come down and get the excitement that surrounds any air show and helps bring some of them closer to signing on with our Air Force or Air National Guard. After all, the big Air Force presence in the Northeast is the Air National Guard.

TOG: This will be the first air show at Otis since 9/11. The mission for this base will change over the next year. Will this air show give people a sense of what this base has been or what it is going to be?

Col. Schiavi: A lot of folks in the community may not know what actually happened to the base. When the 2005 BRAC report originally came out, Otis Air National Guard Base and the 102nd were slated to be closed altogether. When the final recommendations came out, Otis was realigned, not closed, and the 102nd is alive and well. The air show will help folks realize that the base is not going away. We will still have a strong military presence here at Otis as we stand up the 102nd Intelligence Wing to support information superiority missions for the Air Force.

TOG: What will the new intelligence mission be here?

Col. Schiavi: In general terms, one of our new missions will be to serve as a digital ground station. That mission is to collect and analyze and disseminate to the warfighter imagery and other types of intelligence data that platforms like the Predator, the Global Hawk, and the U-2 get from combat theaters. There is an incredible amount of intelligence. Our mission in the digital ground station, similar to our air sovereignty mission with the alert aircraft, will be to remain as a 24/7 unit performing the intelligence mission.

TOG: Will the new mission require as many people?

Col. Schiavi: Our overall size will go down by about 100 people. We have a fairly large wing here. We're working the people issues associated with that. A lot of our young people are very computer literate. This new mission is very suitable for the kind of people we have here and the kind of people we expect to recruit into the unit. We have had a lot of interest among people, internally and externally, who want to get into this new area. I think the Air National Guard will very quickly embrace this new mission and give it the stability that the Guard gives to almost every mission that it performs.

TOG: What is the transformation schedule?

Col. Schiavi: We will officially begin converting into the digital ground station mission on Oct. 1. We're expected to be at our initial operational capability around June 2008. We'll build on that to reach our full operational capability somewhere around fiscal year 2010. Some of our older F-15s have already gone to what we call the "bone yard" in Arizona. The big push for our airplanes will happen this fall. We will probably send four of our aircraft to Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, Mass., in September. All of our aircraft will be gone by next March 31.