This story was updated Feb. 6 at 11:20 a.m. to include additional information from the 113th Wing.

F-16 Fighting Falcon jets from the D.C. Air National Guard’s 113th Wing have joined American forces in the Middle East, as the U.S. military strikes back against Iranian-linked military infrastructure in retaliation for a recent drone attack that killed three soldiers and wounded dozens of other troops.

The wing, based at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and nicknamed the “Capital Guardians,” departed for U.S. Central Command Jan. 17, according to a news release.

Airmen from the 113th Wing attended Combat Archer, a live-fire, air-to-air combat training event held at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, as well as an iteration of Red Flag, the Air Force’s premier air combat exercise held at Nellis AFB, Nevada, to prepare for the planned deployment, wing commander Brig. Gen. Shannon Smith said in an email to Air Force Times.

“Our airmen have spent a lot of time understanding the current state of affairs,” Smith said. “I am supremely confident that our D.C. Guardsmen are ready for the challenge and will lead the way in theater.”

U.S. and allied forces struck more than 100 targets during a series of weekend assaults, including command-and-control centers, rockets and missiles, ammunition depots and other facilities affiliated with Iran-backed militias and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard throughout Iraq, Syria and Yemen. B-1B Lancer conventional bombers from Ellsworth Air Force Base, in South Dakota, temporarily operating out of Dyess Air Base, Texas, were among the aircraft that participated in an assault Friday that hit more than 85 targets.

“Our airmen demonstrated once again our ability to conduct long-range precision strike missions when tasked to do so,” 28th Bomb Wing Commander Col. Derek Oakley said in a statement. “Teaming with our fellow Strikers at Dyess to accomplish the mission is a testament to what we are able to do while further enhancing interoperability and improving our collective readiness.”

“The mission we conducted validated that we can respond to any threat anywhere on the globe,” Oakley added. “All of the units involved have become familiar with operations in different regions because of the [bomber task force] missions we have done. We continuously train and prepare for these types of situations and we are always ready to answer the call when it comes.”

President Joe Biden has warned that more attacks could come if Iran and its militias continue their assault.

“We are prepared to deal with anything that any group or any country tries to come at us with,” Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, said Sunday.

At least 41 National Guardsmen were injured in the Jan. 29 attack on Tower 22 in Jordan. The attack also killed three Army Reservists from Fort Moore, Ga.: Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, Sgt. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, and Sgt. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23.

It’s unclear whether the D.C. Guard assets replace Fighting Falcons from the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Squadron, which arrived in the Middle East in October amid escalating drone attacks throughout the region. The U.S. has bolstered its combat units in CENTCOM as the Israel-Hamas war threatens to spark a larger conflict.

At least three F-16 squadrons, two A-10 Thunderbolt II squadrons and one F-15E Strike Eagle squadron have shipped out to CENTCOM so far, as well as airlift, refueling, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms.

Courtney Mabeus-Brown is the senior reporter at Air Force Times. She is an award-winning journalist who previously covered the military for Navy Times and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., where she first set foot on an aircraft carrier. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and more.

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