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Last deployment for Fireballs, 27th Fighter Wing

An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 522 EFS, the Fireballs, takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. This is the last deployment for the Fireballs as well as their home station of the 27th Fighter Wing at Cannon Air Force Base. The Fireballs began their history in the skies over the Pacific Ocean during World War II and have come full circle by having their final deployment in the same area. The Fireballs will be inactivated after their return to home station. (Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Mahmoud Rasouliyan)

ANDERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 522 Eexpeditionary Fighter Squadron, the Fireballs, takes off during a training mission here. This is the last deployment for the Fireballs as well as the 27th Fighter Wing at Cannon Air Force Base. The Fireballs began their history in the skies over the Pacific Ocean during World War II and have come full circle by having their final deployment in the same area. The Fireballs will be inactivated after their return to home station. (Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Mahmoud Rasouliyan)

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- The 522 Expeditionary Fighter Squadron deployed from Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., is wrapping up the final deployment for their squadron here and, ultimately, the 27th Fighter Wing.

The 522 Fighter Squadron, known as the Fireballs, are being inactivated upon their return to home station and the 27th FW becomes the 27th Special Operations Wing on Oct. 1, said Lt. Col. Tod Fingal, 522 EFS commander.

"This deployment is great closure for our squadron," said Colonel Fingal. "The 522 started in the Pacific during World War II and now we're concluding in the Pacific."
The Fireballs are actually being inactivated rather than deactivated. There's a big difference between the two.

"The size of our military is really reflected by the state of affairs in the world," Colonel Fingal explained. "So, right now maybe we don't need the 522 but sometime in the future that could change and we could be reactivated. That would give me a great sense of pride, especially knowing what we bring to the fight now."

While the 522 FS itself may physically become a thing of the past, its heritage and legacy will always be safe.

"Air Force units do not just disappear," said Dr. John Treiber, 36th Wing Historian. "Metaphorically speaking, it's more like they're 'frozen in time.'"

Dr. Treiber explained that samples of the Fireball patch, a guidon, and other unit memorabilia will be safely vaulted at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Meanwhile, the Air Force Historical Research Agency at Maxwell Air Force Base will file the 522nd's emblem and preserve its lineage and honors. With the assistance of the above agencies the Fireballs could blaze the skies once again if needed in the future.

"Let's say, for example, about 10 years from now the Air Force needs a new fighter squadron," Dr. Treiber said. "Rather than create one out of nothing, the Air Force could resurrect the 522, which would already have its own lineage and honors, as well as a unit emblem."

While the flyers enjoyed their deployment here, their boss said he took advantage of the big airspace and integrated training opportunities to ensure his fighter pilots kept that razor-sharp edge they need.

"We certainly didn't sit on our laurels," said Colonel Fingal. "Instead, we created a mindset of not squandering time but using this deployment to increase our knowledge base of combat operations."

Those combat operations consisted of everything from air to ground scenarios, flying with the deployed tanker units here and integrated flying operations with the deployed B-52 Stratofortresses from Barksdale Air Force Base, La.

They also practiced some good old fashioned aerial combat.

"One of the lessons we could incorrectly learn from the global war on terror is to get lulled into a mindset of always having air superiority," said the 522 commander, who has 17 years of fighter pilot experience. "Air intercept training is still valuable. If you consider military operations against any organized military, air superiority is very important."

While the Fireballs as an organized unit may soon be inactive, its members that comprise the unit are certainly not.

"Our folks are anything but inactive," said Colonel Fingal. "They have a proactive and aggressive work ethic and I know that will follow to their next assignment."

Two-thirds of the 522 already have assignments and will leave within six weeks of their return to Cannon. The other third will either soon receive assignments or will be absorbed into the newly formed special operations wing.

The Fireballs' commander is sure the gaining units receiving members of the 522 are getting great assets to their particular mission.

"We took advantage of this deployment," said Colonel Fingal. "We're leaving here a lot sharper. I'm proud to be in a long legacy of Fireball commanders.

"And I couldn't be prouder of our people."