By Airman 1st Class Dana Alyce-Schwarz
158th Fighter Wing
Sparks fly as a retired F-16C Fighter jet frame is bolted to its display next to the main gate of the Vermont Air National Guard (VTANG). Standing proudly the "Lethal Lady," as the jet is called by pilots, continues to serve the Air Force as it has for nearly 30 years.
Originally commissioned in May of 1985 Lethal Lady was number 1165 of its model to come off the assembly line. The airplane logged over 7,000 flight hours during its career, nearly double the expected amount of flight time for the model.
Maintenance teams went above and beyond to keep the body of the plane from deteriorating, allowing it to achieve such an unprecedented amount of flight time.
Lethal Lady began flying with the USAF as part of the 17th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. The jet flew more than 40 missions during Operation Desert Storm and in 1994 was passed on to the VTANG.
In Vermont, Lethal Lady flew mostly in training missions, but was deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom three times from 2004 to 2007. During the time spent overseas it reached a record of over 1,000 combat flight hours and in March 2008 broke 7,000 flight hours total while being piloted by Col. Thomas Jackman, the Commander of the 158th Fighter Wing.
"She has definitely saved a lot of lives" said Jackman. "A lot of Marines, a lot of Soldiers, a lot of Airmen owe their lives to what this airplane did when she was called upon."
Lethal Lady was originally scheduled to be sent to "The Bone Yard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, AZ, the final resting place for decommissioned military aircraft. Members of the VTANG and the local community rallied to save the renowned aircraft from the scrapyard.
Many Vermonters value the history behind the jet and the work involved keeping it operational. Senator Patrick Leahy lent his support to the petition to immortalize Lethal Lady.
Instead of sending the airplane to the scrapyard it now rests comfortably at the front gate of the VTANG, serving as a testament to the dedication and skill of the Green Mountain Boys.
The exercise is part of a larger model of training, which will result in a large-scale, multi-state, multi-agency training exercise.
"Vermont is preparing for a massive DSCA exercise called Vigilant Guard 16," said Harris. "This CPX was a lead-up event meant to help prepare us for that. Because we're going to do VG16, much like we knew we were going to go to JRTC several years in advance, we've been planning small-scale exercises designed to help prepare the staff and Soldiers for the requirements of VG16."