09/14/07 — SJAFB F-15's head to war

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SJAFB F-15's head to war

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 14, 2007 2:18 PM

To passersby, it might have resembled a field party -- a crowd of 100-plus wide awake at 2 a.m., dancing to the sound of heavy metal tracks blaring out of tall speakers.

And despite the sadness that often accompanies deployment, those lining the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base fight line this morning were, in many ways, celebrating.

More than a dozen F-15E Strike Eagles from the 4th Fighter Wing's 336th Fighter Squadron are currently en route to a base in Southwest Asia as part of the Air Expeditionary Force deployment supporting the global war on terror.

One by one, crews waved to those who showed up to send them off before taking flight.

"Does this get your blood pumping or what?" Wing Commander Col. Steve Kwast said as each jet faded from view into the horizon.

Family members shared a few smiles and shed plenty of tears.

The fighter pilots who turned out were "just plain jealous."

But all who watched the "Rocketeers" become the latest group of Seymour Johnson airmen sent to war had one thing in common -- pride in those manning some of the world's premiere dual-role fighters.

Members of the 335th Fighter Squadron were among those on hand for the send-off.

Their commander, Lt. Col. James Jinnette, knows his crews hoped they would be the ones heading overseas.

"We wish we were going," the Goldsboro native said. "But our time will come soon enough."

In fact, the "Chiefs" expect deployment orders to come down before next summer.

So it came as no surprise to Jinnette that his squadron had a special message for the Rocketeers.

"Did you see the sign?" he asked one member of the local Military Affairs Commission, turning and pointing at the eight-foot sheet aimed at the jets before takeoff.

"HAPPY HUNTING," it read. "But leave some for us."

More than 600 airmen from the 4th are currently stationed at base's across the globe in support of the global war on terror, as are crews from Seymour Johnson's 916th Air Refueling Wing.

Kwast said he felt like a proud parent this morning.

"This is why we joined the Air Force," he said. "We know they are going to make us proud."