Barnes Air National Guard Members return home

WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) –  About 100 men and women are back home after spending two weeks training in Hawaii. “Sentry Aloha” was the largest exercise of its kind.

Members of the 104th Fighter Wing from Barnes Air National Guard in Westfield learned how to fight forces from a country equipped with more manpower and resources.

“They’ve got advanced fighters, they’ve got more of them than we do, and normally a combat situation, our US air force will likely be outnumbered,” said Jim Keefe, Commander of the 104th Fighter Wing.

“Sentry Aloha”  integrated the 104th’s  F-15 aircrafts with the new F-22 Raptors used at other airbases. 22News spoke with one member of the 104th Fighter wing who says it was an experience that helps them better prepare for a real life combat situation.

“Large force type scenarios where you can have as many as 30-to-50 airplanes in the sky at once, those opportunities don’t often show up all the time,” said Colonel Alex Haldopolous of the 104th Fighter Wing.

Haldopolous says the team worked to learn the different strengths and weaknesses of both aircrafts.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the men and women who went out there. They did a great job.”

Although they’re now back home with their families, they say they’re ready to deploy at a moment’s notice to protect our country.

Commander Jim Keefe told 22News over a decade ago the federal government planned to purchase 800 of the new F22 Raptors for the  US Air Force. However, after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Keefe says the budget just wasn’t there.

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