MIRAMAR, Calif. – The 114th Fighter Wing deployed 180 Airmen, F-16 Fighting Falcons, and associated equipment to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar for Operation Lobo Plummet.
Pilots from the 114th Fighter Wing, a unit of the South Dakota Air National Guard, conducted force integration with Marine F-35s and F-18s, as well as Air Force F-15s while training at MCAS Miramar. As a multi-role fighter, the F-16 can perform a variety of mission sets, explained Lt. Col. Jeremey Doohen, Lobo Plummet project officer and F-16 pilot.
“We’ve had a lot of experience fighting the close air support missions with our Army and Marine counterparts on the ground,” said Doohen. “The training during Lobo Plummet is necessary because it continues to challenge the air-to-air mindset, allows pilots to work on their tactics, and broadens their abilities as a multi-role fighter.”
Training with Marine F-35s is not something the 114th Fighter Wing gets to do very often; however, Lt. Col. Doohen emphasized it’s common to operate in a joint environment during a contingency operation, so training deployments like Lobo Plummet give Airmen the opportunity to learn how to work with different branches of the military.
“It gives us realistic mission planning and execution of what it would be like if we had to deploy to a contingency that would force us to fight air-to-air,” said Doohen.
Lt. Col. Doohen explained flying around the San Diego area is different than what he is used to back in South Dakota. The environment gives pilots experience operating in busier airspace as well as flying over unique geographic features like the coastal hills and the ocean.
“It gets us out of our element and out of our comfort zone,” stated Doohen. “It helps you when you deploy, because you’re going to locations that you’re not familiar with, but you feel like you’ve had practice doing it already.”
Chief Master Sgt. Dan Johnson, Lobo Plummet noncommissioned officer in charge and 114th Munitions Flight chief, explained that Lobo Plummet has provided valuable training for the 114th Maintenance Group as well. Training consists of packing up the necessary equipment, deploying to an unfamiliar location, conducting operations, repacking everything, and returning home. In over 17 years, the Electronic Countermeasure shop has never had the opportunity to practice deploying with their test equipment. Lobo Plummet gave those Airmen the valuable training necessary to tear down, pack, and rebuild their equipment.
The Lobo Plummet leadership team also arranged for Airmen to participate in a variety of opportunities to gain a broader perspective of the unit’s mission, and the military as a whole. Airmen were able to team up with crew chiefs for an F-16 launch, tour different aircraft assigned to MCAS Miramar, tour a Military Working Dog facility, and participate in Military Operations in Urban Terrain exercises hosted by the 114th Security Forces Squadron.
“Sometimes we forget that Airmen are so focused on their own area, that they don’t see all the things that go into making an aircraft work,” said Johnson.
After 30 years in the Air National Guard, Johnson admits that he still learns a lot from every deployment.
“I’ve learned so much on this trip from different people and the different jobs they do.” He added that his favorite part of the entire deployment is always getting to know the people. “I believe in people first, and if you take care of the people, the people will take care of everything else.”