Air Guard Unit Hits Predator Milestone

The California Air National Guard’s 163rd Reconnaissance Wing in December reached 100,000 hours of operating MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft, according to a unit release. “This landmark achievement is a testament to the commitment and dedication of our airmen,” said Col. Dana Hessheimer, commander of the wing, which operates out of March Air Reserve Base. “Our most valuable asset is our people. Thanks to them, we’ve been able to assist in domestic emergency response operations and provide global mission capabilities and support for troops on the ground in harm’s way,” he added. The wing’s 196th Reconnaissance Squadron has been flying Predators since November 2006. The wing was the first Air Guard unit to employ the RPA type. It was also the inaugural Air Guard wing to stand up a fully functional formal training unit to instruct Predator pilots and sensor operators and a field training detachment to teach Predator maintainers, states the Dec. 22 release. The wing is currently transitioning to MQ-9 Reaper RPAs.