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    Air National Guard

    The Air National Guard in Iraq(04:03)

    The Air National Guard provides air support in Balad, Iraq. The Airmen fly and maintain F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft in order to accomplish this mission. The president may call up members of the Air National Guard to support the nation’s humanitarian and defense efforts.

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Tech. Sgt. Travis Leno: When you get up in the morning and you're in a place that's serious, we have a serious job to do.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Maxfield: Everyone here, if they don't do their job, the airplanes just don't fly.

1st Lt. Eamonn O'Rourke: We have a closed air support mission in the squadron, and what we do in that mission is provide any air support to ground personnel, mainly the Army guys here in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Maxfield: I think it's definitely important for us to be here for the guys on the ground because they're the ones sometimes living in tents, kicking down doors, running through the desert. And sometimes all they got when they're stuck in a bind is our jets to come through to do a show of force, scare the bad guys away. In many instances it gives them the five to 10 minutes that the bad guys are hiding for them to either plan an attack or get out of there. So I definitely feel that us being here, doing what we're doing, keeps these jets in the air, which keeps those guys safe.

1st Lt. Eamonn O'Rourke: The biggest threat around the lot air base is incoming mortar attacks and rocket attacks. You know, for the pilots, we are mostly susceptible to that when we step to the aircraft, and while we're going through our start cycle and then our shutdown cycle after we land. But, again, you know, it's the maintenance personnel that spend, you know, their entire duty day outside that are at the highest risk for that.

Tech. Sgt. Travis Leno: The biggest challenge that we face is the heat. The heat that we're experiencing here that not only we as the technicians are experiencing, but the aircraft — the cooling system has to work overtime. The electronics don't like to work in the heat. So we're getting a variety of problems. What it really has to take from the technicians is a great deal of flexibility, utilizing the tech data and utilizing our experience to troubleshoot the problems and get the aircraft turned as quickly as possible so that we can accomplish a mission.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Maxfield: Because we do a lot of flying here, a pretty fast pace, that's what the flight line is, a very fast pace. So we sometimes get them, try to turn them in an hour or two, get them back up in the air pretty quick. Especially like I said, in the beginning, some of them are broken, and you're kind of low on how many jets you have to pick from. So besides that and changing a lot of tires, that's pretty much what we do, just turn jets.