Dec 8, 2012 2:21 PM by Jen Fenter - MTN News
The Montana Air National Guard has protected Hawaii and the Pacific coast for more than two years, and on the 71st anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the Hawaii Air National Guard took over the alert mission.
The Montana Air National Guard was asked to stand alert in August of 2010 while Hawaii began transitioning to the F-22s.
"We are the only line of defense to threats coming from this Pacific region," SSgt Quinn Nelson with the 120th explained.
Hypoxia issues delayed the conversion to the new jets, extending MANG's stay on the Hawaiian islands.
"We are taking pride in what we do out here and the significant portion of the air defense of the Hawaiian Islands and Pearl Harbor," the 120th's commander, Lt. Col. James Bong said.
With the F22s now ready to go, MANG's Eagles are preparing to head home to the Treasure State.
"Several months ago we had to make a determination date. We knew it would be sometime in December, so the MT Guard got together with Hawaii Guard, and decided on a date," Bong explained.
The two selected December 7th, the 71st anniversary of Pearl Harbor. "We decided to go on that time frame to add a little more significance to the event," Bong told us.
As the airmen pack up, and prepare to come home, Nelson says it's an experience he's glad he was a part of.
"It feels good to tell people you are part of this. Part of something that has been around for as long as this has been part of the union. And since before that. It's an honor."
MANG's six F-15 jets will return to Big Sky Country on Monday and the airmen will start heading home as early as next week.