Monday, July 14, 2008

Intelligent move: 181st re-designated from fighting wing to intelligence wing

By Deb KellyThe Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE, IN July 13, 2008 08:42 pm— After 54 years of taking to the skies, on Sunday the airmen of the 181st Fighter Wing formally signaled the end of the Wing’s aircraft mission, and opened a new era as the 181st Intelligence Wing.As new commanders and community leaders looked on, nearly 200 troops stood in formation, carrying out a changeover in flags to signify the change in missions. The old flags, showing a blue background emblazoned with “181FW” in gold lettering, were ceremoniously sheathed and taken away as the new flags, exactly the same except for the lettering – “181IW” – were unfurled and raised around the hangar. Only the squeaking of boots could be heard on the floor as commanders turned, some to leave their command, others to assume a new command. The sun shone brightly at the open south end of the hangar, and a warm breeze blew.The redesignation ceremony was the final event in making the transition from a Fighter Wing to an Intelligence Wing. The new mission involves intelligence gathering, communications, and an embedded unit that will serve with the Army on the ground to relay information regarding air support assets.In May 2005, the Base Realignment and Commission board decided to cut the 181st Fighter Wing. The F-16s then began leaving the base, dispersed to various locations throughout the United States.The final flight for the 181st took place in September 2007, and the last of the F-16 left the base in December.The Indiana Air National Guard base in Terre Haute has between 900 and 1,000 troops, and 184 of those are part of the 181st Intelligence Wing, according to public affairs officer Jim Jensen. More than 80 personnel are in some form of training currently.Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, adjutant general of Indiana, who attended the event, said, “I feel extremely proud … It’s the closing of an era … now we’re embarking on a new, important, relevant, vital mission for the Air Force, and I was extremely proud to see all our great airmen today, and the pride they took in the change that was displayed today.”Umbarger credited the 181st with its willingness to embrace the change.“We had to make a tough call whether we were going to fight it or embrace it,” he said. “But we faced it, we focused on it, and here we are today.”Jensen, who spoke to the assembled troops and guests, said the new mission means “we are on the leading edge of new technology in warfare.”Jensen said that while “a lot of people will miss the aircraft … morale is really high. Everyone is excited.”As part of the mission, the 181st will be involved in gathering surveillance at Hulman Field from a Digital Ground Station, a digital imagery/surveillance unit directly involved in global missions. The mission involves some of the newest high-tech imagery equipment and unmanned aerial vehicles in deployed locations. The ground station translates the imagery to troops on the ground and aircraft.Another mission – the Air Support Operations Squadron – will deploy troops to join Army units on the ground to relay information about air support to forward deployed commanders. The bulk of those troops are known as tactical air command airmen, and they face rigorous mental and physical training to become members of the Air Support Operations Squadron.Col. Jeffrey Hauser, the 181st Intelligence Wing commander, said, “The 181st has a long tradition of embracing new technologies and upgrading equipment. Our new role as an Intelligence Wing brings us two new missions … and keeps us relevant as the nation’s war fighters.” Deb Kelly can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or
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