174th Fighter Wing changes name
A historic unit of the New York Air National Guard changes names as it makes a transition. And as YNN's Erin Clarke tells us, while it was a celebratory moment for the military, protestors weren't far away voicing their opinions.
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MATTYDALE, N.Y. -- Almost 63 years after the 174th Fighter Wing became the first Air National Guard flying unit in the state, it receives a new designation as an attack wing. A transition that reflects the change of mission from flying F-16 fighter aircrafts to the remotely piloted MQ-9s, commonly known as drones.
"Primarily a close air support mission to support troops on the ground and that's our primarily mission now with the MQ-9, so we align closer with an attack wing," said 174th Attack Wing Commander, Greg Semmel.
The 174th's sub-organization that operates the MQ-9 combat mission, the 138th Fighter Squadron, also changed names, becoming the 138th Attack Squadron. The two units proudly join three other Air Force squadrons that operate MQ-9s that have already changed designations.
However, while that ceremony was happening, a group stood outside of the airfield expressing their displeasure with what they say are war crimes being committed by the American government.
"I think much of the rest of the world are appalled by how we use these robotic killers in countries that we're not necessarily at war with. We invade their sovereignty, we kill their people. We pursue assassination," said Ed Kinane.
Central New York activists are co-sponsoring a delegation to Pakistan who plan to meet with victims of drone attacks and call for an end to the use of the planes.
"Our efforts in Pakistan will hopefully bring awareness with other people's, focusing on the innocent victims that are included in this warfare that people are subduing and people are not being aware of the numbers that are being killed," said Bonny Mahoney, who is traveling with the delegation.
But, members of the military say the use of the MQ-9s is not a change in their mission, rather a change in execution.
"It is exactly the same and we follow very much the same rules of engagement," explained Semmel.
The newly designated 174th Attack Wing will continue its current combat and training missions. The Institute of Heraldy, which provides insignia to all branches of the military, will make a new unit emblem reflecting the 174th's change.