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Fighting Samurai build winning deployment team

Lt. Col. Andrew Dembosky climbs into his F-16 Fighting Falcon as Crew Chief Staff Sgt. Robert Parsons helps with the preflight preparations Nov. 14 at Misawa Air Base, Japan. Colonel Dembosky is the 35th Fighter Wing inspector general. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Robert Barnett)

Lt. Col. Andrew Dembosky climbs into his F-16 Fighting Falcon as Crew Chief Staff Sgt. Robert Parsons helps with the preflight preparations Nov. 14 at Misawa Air Base, Japan. Colonel Dembosky is the 35th Fighter Wing inspector general. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Robert Barnett)

11/17/2006 -- MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- The 14th Fighter Squadron is preparing to meet the challenges of their Air Expeditionary Force deployment this winter and they're "fired up" to contribute to the Global War on
Terrorism.

The Samurai of the 14th FS will deploy F-16CJ aircraft, pilots and support personnel to Operation Iraqi Freedom where they are ready to put their combat war fighting skills to
the test.

"These guys are fired up to deploy," said Capt. Benjamin Bartlett, 14th Fighter Squadron pilot and deployment project officer. "Right now we've got a list of guys ready to go and
some on a waiting list. It's almost like a depth chart where we can pick number one and two off the bench if we need to. The squadron is chomping at the bit to go make their contribution and put the knowledge and training they've gained over the last five, seven, ten years to the test."

The pilots and support crew of the 14th FS will not only be putting their skills to the test, but they will be incorporating new targeting pods into their war fighting operations.
These precision targeting systems significantly increase the combat effectiveness
during day, night and under-the-weather conditions to attack ground targets with an array of weapons.

"We have new targeting pods on our jet and it is a complex piece of machinery. We've got to get everyone comfortable with the new pods," said Lt. Col. Charles 'Samurai One' Toplikar, 14th FS commander.

The 14th FS will be conducting Close Air Support operations while deployed, which is a different skill set than their typical Suppression of Enemy Air Defense mission.

"Right now we're shifting our focus from the SEAD mission to CAS and a lot of these guys have not been downrange. Especially the young guys - they want to test their skills and get in the game. Everyone's looking forward to it," said the captain.

To effectively conduct CAS missions, they must utilize the advanced targeting pods.
"We've been preparing since July and right now we're undergoing a robust spin-up training plan for the flying portion," said Colonel Toplikar, 14th FS commander. "Our deployed mission will be over and above what we normally do."

In addition to preparing for their flying mission, they're also taking care of ancillary training which includes Self-Aid and Buddy Care, combat survival training and weapons firing.

The support staff is busy working behind the scenes to keep the fighter squadron running like a welloiled machine, according to Tech. Sgt. Duane Plott, 14th Fighter
Squadron operations resource management NCOIC. "Since I'm the senior ranking enlisted troop in the squadron, I'm the 't-shirt' of the squadron, or the voice of the enlisted corps," he said. "We're spending a lot of time talking about our mission downrange, about what we'll be doing, what equipment we'll need, lessons learned from previous squadrons assigned there and how to be prepared."

Part of being prepared is being fit-to-fight -- something the 14th FS takes seriously.
"We push hard for a fitto- fight mentality here," said Colonel Toplikar. "Since I've been in command we've incorporated multiple PT (physical training) sessions into the schedule and have trained additional PTLs (physical training leaders)."

The Samurai understand and take full advantage of the fitness initiative, according to Captain Bartlett. "Pilots are brought up since pilot training that you have to be in shape to fly the F-16 and we know we've got a big job ahead of us. It's almost like peer pressure
for us, making sure you're in the gym and seeing who's in the gym," said the captain.
"We know our lives are at stake and after a four or five hour mission we might have to pull five or six 'g's and on the fifth hour it's important to be in shape."

The enlisted guys are doing a great job at staying in shape too, he explained. "We have PT three times a week. It's our standard. We're all friends so we work out together at the gym. We know that going downrange requires you to be in shape," said Sergeant Plott. "Right now we've got a contest going to see who can get in the best shape. We lift weights at 4:30 a.m. every day because we want to be extra fit and leaner and stronger."
Equally as important as fitness is taking care of those remaining at Misawa.
Families are a key factor in proper preparation, according to "Samurai One."

"We've been involving families in my commander's calls. This way I can present information on what the base can provide for them while we're gone -- from the
Red Cross to Airman Family and Readiness Center, legal, everything," said Colonel Toplikar. "We have to make sure our families are taken care of."

For the Samurai squadron, Colonel Toplikar's wife serves as the main focal point for the spouses, along with two Readiness Assistance Volunteers who are the official continuity for family issues at Misawa while the squadron is deployed.

Having the spouse's morale taken care of on the home front makes the jobs of
the 14th FS warfighters easier. The morale is high according to Captain Bartlett and Sergeant Plott.

The go-to support Airmen are also ready to go. "My focus is to get the young guys ready - they're motivated and ready to go," said Sergeant Plott. Until then, the 14th FS will continue to prepare for the challenges ahead as the Army ground troop's "eyes in the sky."

"Our goal is to support the commander's intent. We're going to be there to protect the Army ground troops by conducting close air support missions. We'll be their eyes in the sky," said Captain Bartlett. "Our goals are to be as sharp as we possibly can during each
sortie. If we get the chance to drop a bomb or shoot a gun we want to be right on
target every time as soon as he (Army ground troop) needs it because his life may
depend on it."