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18th Wing Turkey Shoot hits bullseye

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The skies were filled with the roar of fighter aircraft as pilots from the 44th and 67th fighter squadrons engaged the "enemy" in heated dog fights. 

This was not the setting of an actual battle in a deployed location, but this year's 18th Wing Turkey Shoot competition held here this week. 

"The Turkey Shoot is an intra-squadron event between the fighter squadrons and aircraft maintenance units designed to recognize superior performance in weapons system employment, sustainment and support," said Maj. John Stratton, 18th Operations Support Squadron weapons and tactics chief and Turkey Shoot coordinator. "The purpose is to evaluate how well we accomplish our individual missions through some good-natured squadron competition and to foster some esprit de corps." 

Other participating squadrons included the 18th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron, 909th Air Refueling Squadron, 623rd Air Control Flight, 31st and 33rd rescue squadrons and the 18th Operational Support Squadron's intelligence and weather flights. 

"The Turkey Shoot is a competition that went well beyond simply testing the competence of our trigger pullers," said Col. Mark Henkel, 18th Operations Group commander. "This event included multiple aspects of the wing's mission, including aircraft generation, intelligence and weather briefings, controllers, air-to-air refueling, combat search and rescue, and weapons loaders." 

The Turkey Shoot contributes to the peace and stability of the Pacific region by providing participants the opportunity to improve their skills and push themselves further to get the mission done. 

"Even though we're competing against fellow Kadena members, the Turkey Shoot provides that extra little bit to make you want to fly well and succeed in your mission," said Capt. Jason Roth, 44th FS. "Having my squadron count on me [to win] gives me that extra pressure to put in extra time in prepping for missions and focus on getting the job done without mistakes. During the Turkey Shoot, we all know that if you're not in first place, then you're in last place." 

Turkey Shoots in the past were normally scheduled in conjunction with a "war week" or exercise, but this year's competition was a stand-alone competition which proved to be an overall success. 

"A competition of this magnitude always leaves room for improvement, but there was a visible increase in mission focus and individual performance," said Major Stratton. "Any event that brings out the best in people is always a success in my book."