The Green Mountain Boys are saying goodbye to its fleet of F-16’s.
The final four fighter jets stationed at the Colchester base will take off Saturday to their new home in New Jersey.
“It’ll be a little bit sad to see them go,” said Lt. Col. Dan Finnegan. “But as soon as they are gone, we’ll be just as excited to move onto the next thing.”
The F-16’s are being replaced by the F-35, which are due to land in Vermont later this year.
While the Guard acknowledges the concerns surrounding the more powerful jets, it says they’re critical to the unit’s future in Vermont, as well as to the safety of its pilots.
“The biggest one is survival,” Finnegan said. “There are just a number of places in the world today where we can’t take this platform without putting ourselves in significant risk.”
The F-16’s history in Vermont is long, but perhaps the most notable moment came when it was called upon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“When the first airplane launched, there was one in the air for 120 days and that airplane couldn’t land until the next one launched,” said Master Sgt. Glenn Cota, Vermont Air National Guard. “So there was never a time we didn’t have an airplane in the air,”
Finnegan was one of Vermont’s guard members to fly over ground zero.
“Normally when you fly over New York City, the place is abuzz with radio chatter and aircraft,” he reecalled. “That night it was eerily quiet.”
Several years later, Finnegan and a couple hundred other guard members would fly to the Middle East, providing air support to the Iraqis.
“It was pretty rewarding to see the Iraqis taking control of their own security and providing defense for their country,” said Finnegan.
Master Sergeant Tracy Terry, who helped maintain the jets for more than 30 years, says the legacy of the F-16 is strong and will live on.
“I’ve come to work and leave with a smile,” he said. “It’s been my job and many other people’s careers. It’s just awesome.”