Mattydale (WSYR-TV) -In a small ceremony at the Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, the 174th Fighter Wing became the 174th Attack Wing.
The new name reflects a changing landscape as traditional aircraft have been phased out. The Fighter Wing was established in 1947, the first Air National Guard flying unit in New York. The last F-16 left Syracuse in March 2010, just a few months after the base began operating the MQ-9, an unmanned remotely controlled aircraft, also known as a drone.
Col. Greg Semmel, the 174th Fighter Wing Commander said the name change was requested because it reflects their new mission. The 174th Attack Wing will continue providing various MQ-9 training for the Air Force. The 138th Fighter Squadron, a sub-organization that operates the MQ-9 combat mission becomes the 138th Attack Squadron.
"We selected the 'Attack' designation because it mirrors the organization nomenclature already used by all three Air Force active duty MQ-9 squadrons," Semmel said in a news release.
While the ceremony played out inside the base, protestors lined up outside to show their disapproval of the new mission. Members of "The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars" called on the Air National Guard to end the use of umanned aerial aircraft.
According to a statement, "The Coalition acknowledges that the 174th's renaming is at least a more honest labeling, but suggests that the National Guard go further and call themselves an 'Assassination' or a 'Kill' Wing. The use of drones in extra-judicial assassinations is illegal under international law, is anonymous and unaccountable in practice, and makes Upstate New York a war zone."
The group plans to send members to Pakistan in early October to document the effects of drones. Members said the trip is hosted by a Pakistani group called "The Foundation for Fundamental Rights".
Earlier Sunday morning, more than 120 members of the New York Air National Guard joined a ceremony, separate from the 174th name change.
The Airmen honored in the Hometown Heroes Salute were given framed letters, coins, and special dog tags for their children. The program recognizes those who deployed for more than 30 consecutive days since 2011.