Wing reflects on 9/11 twenty years later

  • Published
  • By Mr. Robert Clark
  • 482nd Fighter Wing Historian

When the Soviet Union left Afghanistan in 1989, the country fell to a militant Islamic movement called the Taliban. 

By 1998, the Taliban controlled 90 percent of the country and also harbored and trained a multinational terrorist organization known as al-Qaida. On Sept. 11, 2001, 19 al-Qaida operatives hijacked four American airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing themselves and 2,977 other people. 

The George W. Bush administration responded by launching the Global War on Terrorism, with Afghanistan its first target. Operation Enduring Freedom began with air strikes against al-Qaida and Taliban targets on Oct. 7, 2001. 

In early 2001, the mission of the GWOT was not in the thoughts of 482nd Fighter Wing Airmen. Establishing the 482nd FW as the new host of the base, keeping the base open, and resisting an economic motivated takeover of the airfield by local municipalities seemed at the forefront of thoughts at the time. 

Through 2001, Homestead Air Reserve Station continued to fulfill its primary mission of training reservists while welcoming and supporting a number of other Department of Defense and international tenant units. 

The 482nd FW deployed to Laage Air Base, Germany for Exercise Millennium Falcon providing dissimilar-in-combat training with German Mig-29s. 

However, when terrorists attacked the United States on 9/11, 482nd FW F-16 fighter pilots from the 93rd Fighter Squadron started flying combat air patrols and the already scheduled Aerospace Expeditionary Force plans put 482nd FW Mako fighter jets on the front line of the war in Afghanistan.

Along with flying the CAPs from HARS, elements of the 482nd Fighter Wing deployed in October 2001 to Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait as part of a regularly scheduled Aerospace Expeditionary Force rotation to enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. 

Mako jets began flying additional combat missions as part of OEF over Afghanistan. 

Throughout the 90-day deployment, Mako pilots, as part of a larger air reserve component "rainbow wing" at Al Jaber, flew between nine and fifteen hours a day. Despite the addition of auxiliary fuel tanks, these long duration missions often required four to five aerial refueling from KC-135 or KC-10 tankers and pressed Mako flight and maintenance crews to their physical limits.

This year, we reflect on the twenty years since the start of the war in Afghanistan and how the 482nd FW has contributed. 

This 20th anniversary brings memorialization of the changes to our nation, the altered course of world history, and the framing of a new strategic outlook for U.S. fighting forces for that began that day. 

Since that day, the 482nd FW has been active in support of the continental air defense mission, Operation Noble Eagle alongside their Florida Air National Guard counterparts from Detachment 1, 125th Fighter Wing, as well as continued AEF rotation deployments worldwide. 

Two decades later, memories remain vivid and current events spark concern for many especially those directly affected. This day known as Patriot Day or 9/11 Day is recognized by U.S. law as a National Day of Service and Remembrance observed every year since 2001. 

Each year on Patriot Day, flags are flown half-staff and fellow Americans observe a moment of silence at 08:46 a.m. EST which marks the time that the first plane flew into the World Trade Center. Patriot Day should not be confused with Patriot’s Day, which commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, the earliest battles in the American Revolutionary War.