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An F-16 from the 121st Fighter Squadron departs the main runway at JB Andrews, Md., on Aug. 28, 2012. Staff photo by Arie Church.

District of Columbia Air National Guard aerospace control alert F-16s recently scrambled for the 5,000th time since Sept. 11, 2001, in defense of the nation's capital, unit officials announced. "Every day that we come down here to the alert facilities ... we arrive with the mindset that today is the day ...  my actions are going to prevent an attack on our nation's capital," said Lt. Col. John Vargas, 113th Wing ACA detachment commander at JB Andrews, Md. Stricter flight restricted zones were instituted over the National Capital Region following the 9/11 terrorist attacks when the unit began 24/7 alert. Since then, the unit has responded to more incidents than NORAD's other continental alert sites combined. "If you add up all of their alert calls and double that, that doesn't come close to the amount of activity we have had," said 113th Operations Ground Commander Col. Mark Valentine. The 5,000th scramble occurred March 21.