The Changing of the Guard

Ten years after 9/11, what life is like in an Air National Guard unit.

Staff Sergeant Michelle Torrey, right, with Master Sergeant Brett Kitzman load an AIM-120 missile onto an F-16. (Ed Darack)
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I’ve had five deployments over to the Middle East, from Northern Watch [an operation in support of the Iraqi no-fly zones that took place from January 1997 through March 2003] to Southern Watch [an operation in support of the Iraqi no-fly zones that took place between August 1992 and March 2003] to Operation Iraqi Freedom 1 and Operation Iraqi Freedom 2. We have some pilots who have had nine combat tours.

—Lieutenant Colonel Bill Orton, 140th Operations Support Squadron Commander

Writer and photographer Ed Darack ( is the author of Victory Point: Operations Red Wings and Whalers — The Marine Corps’ Battle for Freedom in Afghanistan (Berkley Trade, 2010).

About Ed Darack
Ed Darack

Air & Space/Smithsonian contributing editor Ed Darack’s forthcoming book, The Final Mission of Extortion 17 (Smithsonian Books, 2017), covers the story of the people and circumstances of Extortion 17 and its downing in Afghanistan in August 2011. The shootdown was the single deadliest incident in the war in Afghanistan. The book grew out of his article in the Feb./Mar. 2015 issue. See his website and Facebook page for more information.

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