Mile High Militia

Meet the members of the 120th Fighter Squadron, who protect the skies over Colorado.

(Ed Darack)

Response Ready

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(Ed Darack)

Major Chris Southard (pictured) inspects an AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile mounted on the wing of his F-16C. Master Sergeant Greg Noah (not pictured) is responsible for ensuring that the personnel and equipment of the 120th are able to respond at a moment's notice. Prior to 9/11, Noah was a part-time Guardsman working as an electrical engineer. On the day of the attacks he was in Houston on business, with no way to get back to Denver. He and a co-worker rented a car and drove the 19 hours back home; from the moment he reported on base, Noah became a full-time Guardsman. After the 120th deployed to "Base X" (the location is still classified), his most memorable moment "was seeing my jet come back with no ordinance for the first time," he recalls.

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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