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4th FW Strike Eagles assist shuttle launch

Lt. Col. Gabriel Green and Capt. Zachary Bartoe patrol the airspace in an F-15E Strike Eagle as the Space Shuttle Atlantis launches May 14, 2010, at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Colonel Green is the 333rd Fighter Squadron commander and Captain Bartoe is a 333rd FS weapons system officer. Both aircrew members are assigned to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. John Peltier)

Lt. Col. Gabriel Green and Capt. Zachary Bartoe patrol the airspace in an F-15E Strike Eagle as the Space Shuttle Atlantis launches May 14, 2010, at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Colonel Green is the 333rd Fighter Squadron commander and Captain Bartoe is a 333rd FS weapons system officer. Both aircrew members are assigned to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. John Peltier)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (AFNS) -- Airmen from the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., and the Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region, or CONR, and Air Forces Northern Command provided crucial airspace control and manning support to the successful launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis May 14 here.

CONR members ensured airspace sovereignty by enforcing the Federal Aviation Administration's temporary flight restriction area established around Kennedy Space Center. Using F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft from the 4th FW, CONR Airmen identified and redirected five aircraft that inadvertently violated the restricted airspace.

"The U.S. Air Force protects the United States every day in support of Operation Noble Eagle," said Lt. Col. Gabriel Green, the 333rd Fighter Squadron commander. "When needed, the 4th FW supports this mission. (The wing) protected the (sky) by flying an air patrol over and around the space shuttle. When an aircraft entered the no-fly zone, we intercepted, identified and redirected (it) out of the airspace."

CONR also deployed the Joint-Based Expeditionary Connectivity Center team to here to provide additional support for the launch.

AFNORTH provided the headquarters manning for U.S. Northern Command's Joint Task Force-Space Transportation System, responsible for the search and rescue of the astronauts and recovery of the orbiter if the need arises. AFNORTH also serves as the operational level focal point for situational understanding and crisis response to space shuttle mission contingencies.

"As members of CONR, we are very proud of our mission to protect the (airspace above) the shuttle while AFNORTH personnel provide manning for potential search and rescue operations," said Col. Scott Barberides, the JTF-STS commander.

The task force provides the command and control of Department of Defense forces during crisis response from the Morrell Operations Center at Cape Canaveral AFS.

"Flexibility is a key strength of airpower and Seymour Johnson (AFB) Airmen," Colonel Green said. "We are proud to have contributed to our space program and the Air Force's success."