The Associated Press photo offers a glimpse of one of thousands of airmen who are hammering Iraq in a distant war. But to friends of 1st Lt. Bill Sensenig of Hill Air Force Base, it has tremendous poignancy.
The picture, taken by a pool photographer on Tuesday morning, shows Sensenig of the 4th Tactical Fighter Squadron adjusting his fireproof helmet liner before taking off from a U.S. air base in the Arabian Peninsula. According to the AP, he was going "on another bombing mission against Iraqi targets."In late August, the 4th and 421st Tactical Fighter Squadrons, both part of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing stationed at Hill, took off for the Middle East. When Operation Desert Storm started nearly a month ago, they began making bombing runs against enemy positions.
As of Tuesday, none of the jets from Hill has been lost in combat. However, on Dec. 19, 1990, an F-16 piloted by Capt. Michael L. Chinburg of the 4th Tactical Fighter Squadron crashed in Saudi Arabia in a non-combat accident, killing Chinburg.
Sensenig, 28, is originally from Pocono Pines, Pa. He joined the Air Force in December 1985, having served in ROTC in college. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma.
A friend of Sensenig described him as a quiet, self-contained man. He is a "nice guy" who likes to ski and play golf.
"He has a kind of low-key, subtle sense of humor," the friend said. He added that it's "super" to know he was safe as of Tuesday.
"Everybody is glad to hear that," the friend added.
He said a couple of messages have come through from Sensenig, saying the squadrons have been quite busy but not giving many details. The pilots flew many training missions before the war started, and the pace is being kept up.