|'89 Grad Completes 100th Combat Sortie|
'89 Grad Completes 100th Combat Sortie
By Staff Sgt. Don Branum, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - An F-16 pilot with the 332nd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron flew his 100th combat sortie, an armed overwatch mission over Baghdad recently.
Lt. Col. David Serage's accomplishment highlights a 19-year Air Force and Air National Guard career that began as a childhood dream.
"I've always wanted to be a pilot." Colonel Serage said. "My Mom said, when I was about 5 or 6, I started talking about flying.
He kept his vision in mind, even though he didn't know quite how to fulfill it until he got into high school.
"When I was in my sophomore year, my brother told me about a little wayward school in Colorado Springs," the 1989 Academy graduate said. The "little wayward school" was the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the Grove, Okla. native set his sights on attending. He spoke with an Academy liaison in Tulsa, Okla. who helped him put together a nomination package. His Congressman endorsed the nomination, and he then competed against candidates from other states for a slot in the prestigious institution.
"I was 18, and the Air Force Academy was a far cry from Grove High School," the colonel said. "It was a huge culture shock coming in, but it was a good experience and a great education. I made lifelong friends there and got a real appreciation for the Air Force."
After graduating from pilot training at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., Colonel Serage flew the B-52 Stratofortress and the T-38 Talon. It was while flying a T-38 crosscountry flight that he met his wife in Toledo, Ohio. They married in 1995 and immediately moved to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
"The Air Force had retired the F-111 (Aardvark), and the EF-111 (Raven) was in the process of retiring, and that left a dent in the Air Force's air defense suppression capability," Colonel Serage said. "So Air Force pilots flew EA-6B Prowlers jointly with the Navy."
Colonel Serage was deployed for about 2½ years out of the four years he flew with the Navy.
In 1999, Colonel Serage moved to Tulsa where he joined the Air National Guard. He flew his first F-16 missions with the Tulsa ANG's 138th Fighter Wing, conducting missions in support of Operation Southern Watch.
"It was a little tricky, adjusting from B-52s and EA-6Bs to F-16s," the colonel said, who has flown a total of 4,700 hours. "But I had some good instructors - some very patient instructor pilots."
Colonel Serage deployed to Joint Base Balad in 2007 to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. The tempo of combat has changed significantly in that year, he said. "Last year, it seemed like we were dropping ordnance quite a bit," he said. "This year, that portion of our mission has scaled back. I attribute that to a successful military and diplomatic operation. Still, our strength and troop support is projected through continuous armed air presence." Reaching 100 sorties doesn't mean what it used to.
During World War II, bomber pilots were lucky to reach 50 combat sorties without being shot down. During the Vietnam War, pilots had to fly 100 sorties before they could return home from their tour. Today, reaching such a milestone means something different.
"When I hear the words, '100 combat sorties,' I think of the great Airmen of earlier wars," Colonel Serage said. "To me, achieving this mark reminds me of our proud Air Force heritage. The Airmen who flew, fought and won in previous conflicts have brought us the freedoms that make our country the greatest in the world."