MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — It’s just past the halfway point for the more than 400 airmen deployed to Iraq to support the 14th Fighter Squadron.

In his latest weekly phone recording, Lt. Col. Chuck Toplikar, 14th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, said time is flying by and “we are definitely in the groove.”

Last week was a slow week for weapons employment, Toplikar said. However, “we have done many shows of force in support of the ground force operations throughout Baghdad and the Aburdeen Shiite Pilgrimage between Iskandaria and Karbala.”

“We always get great feedback from the Army when we do these low passes, and it is very rewarding to know that we are so effective in quelling violence by just being there,” he said.

Toplikar, who records an unclassified message from Balad Air Base, Iraq, every week for people at Misawa, tried to assuage concerns about mortar and rocket attacks on the base.

Several weeks ago, the base underwent an intense mortar attack during which a Misawa maintainer was slightly injured when a mortar hit his billeting pod. Toplikar said the base gets attacked an average of twice a day, but “due to our systems and procedures, as well as the inaccuracy and poor quality of the enemy weaponry, losses of life or injuries are rare and damage is usually minimal.”

One goal the squadron has before coming home later this spring is to upgrade its facilities, Toplikar noted. “Aspiring artists” are painting some of the concrete barriers, a grill pit and picnic tables were recently added to the central operations quad and new furniture is on the way, Toplikar said.

“Some of our airmen will most certainly be here again in the future,” he said.

To listen to Toplikar’s latest recording, call DSN (315) 226-1400.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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