Tulsa Air National Guardsmen Deploy To Japan For Support Mission
TULSA, Oklahoma - A new support mission has 200 airmen from the Tulsa Air National Guard base being deployed.
About a third of those airmen will leave Thursday morning on a 757, not to Iraq or Afghanistan, but to Japan.
It's a long journey, made even more complicated if you're one of the pilots flying a little, but powerful, F-16 fighter jet.
We see F-16s flying over Tulsa, but never at full force.
Fighter pilot, Mark Cox, said, "We don't want to go supersonic over the United States soil. We don't want to be shattering windows."
F-16s almost always have limitations flying in the U.S., but fighter pilots Cox and Rob Vaccariello will get to fly at supersonic speed when they deploy to Japan.
A dozen F-16s and 200 airmen from the 125th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron are taking off for a support mission at U.S. Pacific Command.
"This is a medium size deployment for us. We've gone in a lot bigger numbers before," said 138th Wing Commander, Colonel Tray Siegfried.
He said the Air Force routinely deploys airmen to Japan to have a presence there and deter threats to national security.
Recently, units from Vermont and Wisconsin have also deployed to Japan, where fighter pilots train over the ocean with fewer limitations, practicing skills for war.
Vaccariello said, "It's a great opportunity for us to train and see a different part of the world that we've never been to before."
"Go as high as you'd like or go as low as you want because you have Cessna's flying underneath you, airliners going under you," said Cox.
Where they're going, they said they can fly to infinity.
The trip getting there isn't easy.
F-16s only carry enough fuel for two to three hours in the air, so they have to refuel six to nine times en-route to Japan; and they don't refuel on the ground, another plane helps refuel mid-air.
The Air Force has called on an Air National Guard Unit from Ohio to help make the trip.
No word on how long the deployment will last.
The deployment also demonstrates the U.S.'s commitment to stability and security in Japan and that region.
We cannot yet say which base they will report to.